Soup Night!

011014_soup-nightDo you remember the folk tale about Stone Soup? Two hungry soldiers tricked a village into adding ingredients until they had a delicious pot of soup made from a stone. It’s one of my favorite stories, and soup is one of my favorite foods, especially at this time of year. Gathering friends, family and neighbors for a casual night of soup and sides is a great bonding idea. I encourage you to try your own soup night.

You can borrow from the folk tale and have guests bring ingredients, cut up and ready to throw in, for one big pot of soup, or you can expand the evening to feature an entire soup buffet to highlight your guests’ own creations. If including children, you might have a pot of simmering water with meat and poultry parts and help the kids add the other ingredients for a custom version of the folk-tale dish. Or include some doctored-up store-bought tomato soup and dip-worthy mini-grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sides can include a wide variety of breads, salads and vegetables. Soup night can be anything: vegetarian, gluten free, dairy friendly; there’s a pot to please every palate. Soups can also be grouped by theme, such as Asian, Middle Eastern or Italian. If this communal soup concept warms your heart, get more ideas at

“Soup Night” by Maggie Stuckey, brimming with tips and recipes, served as the inspiration for this idea.


Tips & Tricks
• As host, provide one or two soups in a slow cooker, along with disposable bowls, spoons and perhaps some plastic containers for leftovers.
• Have some unique condiments to add to the soups, such as croutons, tortilla strips or maybe even some cooked small pasta or rice.
• The supermarket salad bar is a good place to find fresh cut-up vegetables for soup or garnishes.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Making Music Together

Last month, about 20 students ages 6 to 12, slowly coaxed “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from their stringed instruments — some of which were bigger than the young musicians who played them — during a Baltimore Bows recital rehearsal.

Founded in September 2014 and led by Yonatan Grinberg and his wife, Andrea, Baltimore Bows is sponsored by the Baltimore Talent Education Center. BTEC, in its 40th year, provides about 20 Baltimore City schools with “progressive, afterschool music education programs for students from kindergarten to 12th grade, based on incremental learning, emphasizing parent involvement as well as community collaboration, like Baltimore Bows,” said executive director Kelly A.J. Powers.

Israeli-born Grinberg and his wife came to Baltimore from Chicago two years ago so he could pursue a doctorate in violin performance at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. Several people in the Jewish community heard they had arrived and quickly reached out to them about music instruction.

“We saw that not only [was] there a need, but a desire to send kids to music lessons,” said Grinberg. “And either because of financial issues or because most programs run [lessons] on Shabbos … we saw a real need” to provide lesson and performance options that could work for the observant Jewish community.”

At the start of his doctoral studies, Grinberg taught music with BTEC in several schools and offered to start a program at Northwestern High School (also a BTEC site), he explained, because it is conveniently situated within a densely populated Jewish community. But Baltimore Bows — named by the students — is open to any child who wants to learn how to play violin, viola or cello. The cost for participation and instruments is subsidized through BTEC.

Yael Quittner is a member of the local homeschooling community so the timing and the affordability worked well for her family. Three of her sons joined the group; Heshy, 12, plays cello, Mendy, 10, plays viola, and Sruly, 9, plays violin.

“None of them had ever seen an instrument, not even held an instrument,” said Quittner. “It’s sparked such interest.” She added that all three children were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but don’t use medication anymore because, she said, “the side effects were disastrous.” But when playing music, Quittner said of her children, “I’ve noticed it calms them down and also helps them to focus within other areas of their lives.”

Some ADHD-diagnosed children suffer from self-esteem issues because of constantly trying keep up with peers, she explained, and that’s one reason Quittner chose to homeschool her children.

But Heshy and Mendy played solos for their recent Chanukah recital concert, and “to be successful in something has boosted their self-esteem,” Quittner said. “[Playing music and performing] has been phenomenal in helping them feel good about themselves and stick with something.”

Yehudis Eagle’s son, Yishai, 10, plays viola with Baltimore Bows. Eagle is a big proponent in spreading the word about the program to other families, and many of her 11 children play instruments; some are very accomplished, so theirs has been a musical home for years.

“[Playing music is] very soulful, it’s a wonderful outlet for their neshamas, for their souls, and it brings joy to the household,” she said. “The accomplishment they feel— when they go to a lesson when they’ve prepared and the teacher is glowing about work they’ve done, then they advance and get more sophisticated on their instrument. [Music] is a language, and it’s a wonderful language to learn.”

Baltimore Bows meets twice a week for two hours. During the first hour, students receive one-on-one instruction — Grinberg on violin, Andrea on cello, and Sarah Lowenstein teaches viola. For the second hour the children play as an ensemble. The opportunity to play in a group at such a young age, said Grinberg, is another aspect that makes the program very unique.

Dr. Rena May Juni’s children attend Ohr Chadash Academy, and 10-year-old Hadassah plays viola and Ariela, 8, plays violin.

“Music is important in allowing children to listen to each other,” said Juni. “That’s a beautiful thing and an important thing for a child to learn. And you can only get that when you perform in an orchestra.”

The girls by their own desire, said Juni, practiced Chanukah songs Grinberg passed out to the class if anyone was interested in playing over the break. They accompanied the family during candle lighting.

“I think their ears are more tuned to music now,” said Juni, who heard about Baltimore Bows from her involvement in the Baltimore Jewish Mommies Facebook group. “They’re interested in music in a way they haven’t been before. We just came back from the library, and they wanted to get a book about orchestra and [books] on Mozart and other composers.”

BTEC director Powers is “dedicated to real music education for students” said Grinberg and has been with BTEC since 2009. Before that, she was a volunteer parent with the program, and music study and participation “opened up a whole new world” for her and her children, she said.

She added, “Only six out of 184 Baltimore City schools offer music instruction after third grade, compared with 100 percent of schools in Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.”

The multiple applications and proven benefits of incremental music studies on academic readiness and the limitations of access to some other programs (due to cost, auditions and location) emphasizes the importance of BTEC according to Powers.

The repercussions of playing with Baltimore Bows, which opens a section for new students Jan. 13, have echoed throughout the group. Juni’s daughter, Ariela, found out her school classmate was studying keyboards so they met on weekends to practice “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Quittner said she doesn’t need to ask her children to practice, and often when it’s time to set the dinner table or time for bed, she’ll hear instruments playing somewhere in the house.

Yehudis’ children played an impromptu concert for the family with some Chanukah music a family friend presented them, arranged especially for strings.

“Those moments cannot be evaluated,” she said. “To connect with each other in that way and deliver it to other people. I’m really happy [Yonatan and Andrea] landed here, it’s right in our daled amos, right in our territory, in our neighborhood.”

Jewish Future

From the earliest moments you begin teaching your children life skills and values. Like brushing your teeth and being kind to others. Like reading and sharing toys. You teach them to drive and you teach them to have concern for those less fortunate. You do your best to teach them to be good people.

As they grow, you do your best to instill your beliefs and better understand their interests and concerns for the world around them. You might share stories at the Shabbat table and perhaps you get involved as a family in local charities or Mitzvah Day.

In school and at home, Jewish children hear of the importance of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and tzedakah. You watch with pride as your children carry coins in their pockets to drop in the pushke at school. Where do these small acts and conversations lead you in teaching them goodness?

As your children get older, you may encourage them to donate their own time and money to help those causes in which they believe. But you know the greatest lesson is the one you demonstrate.

Jewish Baltimore has a place where a little tzedakah and volunteerism have a tremendous impact on those less fortunate, the elderly and children in need.

One of the easiest ways to teach a little tzedakah early on is by getting involved with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and making a first time gift in your child’s name. For as little as $5, you can begin a Jewish legacy for your child in Jewish Baltimore. And you can get hands-on with the Jewish Volunteer Connection or Mitzvah Makers on the Move.

That donation, which goes towards The Associated’s Annual Campaign, will have a direct effect in the areas you and your children care most about. Together, you might choose to donate new toys or winter coats to our Chanukah Closet or give a gift that helps winterize homes for seniors.

Your gift will support The Associated’s 14 programs and agencies, and show your child the reach of a single act of kindness. You can make your gift online today at and visit for ways to get involved.

Jewish Food: What’s The Next Big Thing?

Ethnic foods are enjoyed by Americans, Europeans, Asians and other well-traveled societies. Thai, Indian and Vietnamese cuisines have joined the ranks of French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Greek Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Hungarian culinary delights and haute cuisine. As experienced worldwide travelers visit exotic places and taste a wide variety of authentic culinary cuisines, they seek out these delicious foods once they return home.

Worldwide delicacies can now be purchased in major supermarkets and restaurants, and they represent all major food groups, even those that have gotten a challenging rap in recent years.

The Start of a ‘Jewish Food’ Industry
Even with carbohydrates being attacked by those who warn of high gluten and others who think the calories will affect their hip size, crusty French breads, baguettes, Italian breads, British scones, Jewish rye bread, grissini, bagels and even matzo fill American breadbaskets.

There was a time Americans would eat only plain, soft white bread. In the South, they often cut away the crust. Then came the bagel. Bagels began rolling out of New York in the 1930s to other parts of America when Lender’s bagels made the ethnic Jewish item an American supermarket mainstay.

Thousands of bagel shops have now opened up all over the country, most serving 15 or more varieties of the crusty treat — even in areas not populated by Jews. Even Dunkin’ Donuts now places a hefty marketing budget into promoting its bagels and croissants.

(Justin Tsucalas)

(Justin Tsucalas)

In Baltimore, Goldberg’s Bagels is highly rated and has won many taste tests. An average bagel (not just at Goldberg’s, but any bagel) is about 300 calories; scooped, it is about 260.

Over the years, there have been many other examples of kosher or Jewish foods taking on a significant role in secular American life.

One of the strongest examples is when Levy’s New York rye bread and Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs underwent a Madison Avenue public relations remake, which drove home the point that kosher all-beef hot dogs and Jewish rye bread were not just for Jewish people anymore. Today, some industry sources estimate that the majority of Hebrew National hot dogs are purchased by non-Jewish Americans.

New York delis that serve oversized hot pastrami-stuffed sandwiches with mustard and a pickle became part of the culinary culture of American taste, no longer just for New Yorkers.

The sandwiches and hot dogs were joined by the kosher pickle that soon sat not only on top of deli counters but also in jars on the shelves of
grocery stores. Knishes, filled now with all sorts of flavors and not just potatoes, have become a hit too.

Chicken noodle soup and matzo ball soup are proven alternatives to medicinal remedies for the common cold. Pigs in a blanket, those tasty mini hot dogs wrapped in crusty dough, are a smashing hors d’ oeuvre.

Rugelach is now popular even at non-kosher Italian stores. For example, Zabar’s, one of America’s premier gourmet shops located in Manhattan, sells chocolate babka under its own Zabar private label. It’s one of the biggest sellers in its bakery department … but it is manufactured by a Chassidic bakery in Brooklyn. Who makes the babka is a trade secret, but its name is a color (and it’s not red, yellow, silver, purple, orange or gold). It’s green. And that same babka is sold at both Seven Mile Market and Shopper’s in Baltimore.

Similarly, Middle Eastern cuisine — both Arabic and Israeli — has grown in popularity. Sabra hummus attracted the corporate eye of PepsiCo, Inc. that now manufactures and sells tubs of the creamy chick pea paste to supermarkets throughout America. A new local company, The Wild Pea, has six flavored varieties of hummus, many of which can be found at Seven Mile Market, Wegmans and Whole Foods.

What’s the next Jewish culinary dish or treat to follow the success of the bagel, hummus and kosher hot dog?


This Jewish dish is still a culinary secret, a dish enjoyed by mostly
Orthodox Jews who do not cook on the Sabbath.

But what is cholent?

It is similar to chili, a one-pot meal that slow-cooks for 24 hours. This is helpful for observant Jews, as cooking raw foods and igniting a flame are among Shabbat prohibitions. Being that cholent is pre-cooked and ready before the Sabbath begins on Friday evening, keeping it hot over the Sabbath is not cooking and is therefore permissible.

Where did we get it?

According to “The Book of Jew-ish Food” by Claudia Roden, “In medieval times in France, the French made cassoulet, a dish of meats, including goose and sausage, with beans slowly cooked in plenty of goose fat. There were Jews living in Languedoc, where cassoulet originated. Many lived off the land; Toulouse, Narbonne, Nimes, Lunel, Beziers and especially Montpellier were centers of Talmudic study.”

When Jews fled France and went to Germany, cholent was enhanced as a one-pot Sabbath meal so additives such as kishke and potato kugel were often added to the pot.

How the name cholent was given to this tasty dish is debatable. The derivation of the world cholent may come from the medieval French words chault, which means hot, and lent, which means slow.

Another idea: In Europe, on Fridays before the Sabbath, families sent their sealed cholent pots to Jewish bakeries and to communal kitchens and would fetch the hot steaming pots after synagogue on Sabbath morning. There is a theory that since the Yiddish word for synagogue is shul, it is possible cholent came from a combination of the words shul and end, which referred to a dish that was picked up at the end of a synagogue service.

Meir Panim Holds All-Female Competition

Shira Pomerantz (left) and Rosie Braunstein are finalists in Meir Panim’s  “Voices” competition. The organization is raising money for needy Israeli  families and children. (Provided)

Shira Pomerantz (left) and Rosie Braunstein are finalists in Meir Panim’s
“Voices” competition. The organization is raising money for needy Israeli
families and children.
(photos provided)

When Meir Panim held its “American Idol”-style “Voices” contests last year, organizers unintentionally excluded part of the Jewish community.

“We realized that observant girls were not a part of the event, and it wasn’t really an oversight as much as a lack of understanding as to the laws,” said Leslie Goldberg, Maryland regional director for American Friends of Meir Panim. “So this year, we said we definitely want to do something for all the females in the observing community, because we know there’s so much talent, and we want to expose that talent.”

Meir Panim, a nonprofit that feeds hungry Israelis in dignified ways and is working to break the poverty cycle in Israel, holds the finals in its “Voices” competition Sunday, Dec. 22 (7 p.m.) at Goucher College. Auditions were held earlier in the month, and the top 10 singers (five from middle school and five from high school) will compete to win three voice lessons from renowned singer Elena Tal, who is also one of the judges.

This year’s auditions, as well as the finals, featured all-female staff, judges and stagehands. Orthodox girls can’t sing in public for men once they reach bat mitzvah age, which is why Orthodox girls did not take part in last year’s coed competition.

The event, spearheaded by Leslie Goldberg from American Friends of Meir Panim, aims to raise money and awareness for Meir Panim and the 1.8 million Israelis, 860,000 of whom are children, living below the poverty line.

Meir Panim, which helps Jews and non-Jews in Israel, is building a multimillion-dollar 100,000-square-foot nutrition center that will be capable of preparing 30,000 meals a day for Meir Panim’s free restaurant, Meals on Wheels and after-school programs. It will be Israel’s largest food production facility and will employ 200 people.

Meir Panim also distributes food cards to clients that function like regular debit cards for groceries.

To try to break the cycle of poverty, the organization holds vocational training and after-school programs that include tutoring, computer classes and other enrichment activities. Parents are invited to some of the kids’ activities and are also given their own classes on home budgeting, parenting skills and language skills, if necessary.

In November, the organization held its “Vocaltrition” concert, which featured area cantors singing Jewish music. And much like the cantors who sang that night, those involved in making “Voices” happen were happy to help Meir Panim.

“We all have different talents, and our job in this world is to look for what our talents are, what can we do? How can we both serve God, service the Jewish people, and serve the world with our talents?” said Lisa Friedman, a judge. “This gives the girls who can sing an opportunity to explore that.”

Friedman, who plays piano and sings in the band Ayelet HaShachar, said she and her two female bandmates — all Orthodox — had to find their own religious musical path to express their talents.

Ayelet HaShachar will also be performing a few of its songs and accompanying all the finalists in a sing-along of one of their songs.

Elena Tal, another judge in the competition and a voice teacher and an internationally traveled singer, said “Voices” is a great opportunity for the girls to maintain their religious observance but still have an outlet for their talent.

“I don’t think there are a lot of competitions of this sort that they’ve heard of before,” she said. “So this is a new opportunity for them.”

Even the finalists, young as they may be, know that their talent is part of a larger purpose in this case.

“This competition is for such a good cause, to feed the hungry in Israel,” said Rosie Braunstein, 11, who hopes to be a professional singer. She auditioned with a song by Shaindel Antelis called “The Light.”

“I picked the song because I really like the message, spreading the light,” she said.

Shira Pomerantz, 12, also hopes to be a professional singer. She sings in the Krieger Schechter’s middle school choir and also sings on the bimah during the High Holidays at her synagogue, Chizuk Amuno.

“I’ve been singing since before I can even remember,” she said. “I think I started when I was about 2 years old, but ever since then I’ve been singing every day of my life.”

She sang “Shema Yisrael Elohai” because she thought the song related to what Meir Panim is all about.

“The first line means, ‘When I’m alone and sad, my heart cries out to God,’ which really has to do with the charity,” she said. “People are there to help.”

Tickets for Sunday’s event can be purchased at

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter —

Taking Aim At Gun Violence

Halacha (Jewish law), just like the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, states the right for citizens to own weapons for use in self-protection and to maintain public safety.

In the case of Jewish law, however, it also mandates safe and responsible use with regard to ownership for the public good.

“Safe and responsible” are weighty factors. So much so that halacha instructs that anything owned that is considered dangerous should be properly locked, confined or guarded so the use of, or exposure to, doesn’t hurt (or even frighten) anyone not intended for harm in self-defense. Jewish law also dictates a person should not sell weapons to, or make weaponry for, those who have exhibited criminal intentions or are unstable. (In current terms, this could translate to background checks.) In fact, the lauded Torah and Bible commentator Nachmanides’ (1194-1270) interpretation of a story in Genesis (4:20-24) went so far as to state, “It is not the sword that kills, but the bad choice by a man.”

What makes it possible — or probable — for a person to make a “bad choice” with respect to gun violence? Is it the easy access to guns? Is it desperation for the basic needs of day-to-day living? Or is it simply not being equipped with the emotional and mental tools needed to select a better choice?

Politicians, professors and public health professionals have been working tirelessly to answer that question in order to combat gun violence on national and local levels.

One attempt at limiting access to guns is the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that was signed 20 years ago last month, on Nov. 30, 1993. Enacted on Feb. 28, 1994, the federal mandate “requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer — unless an exception applies.”

121313_taking-aim3A glut of statistics could be referenced to prove that 20 years later, the Brady Bill has not been nearly as effective as hoped. Some of that is due to legal loopholes and powerful lobbying, and some is due to lack of accountability and greed.

More recently and on a state level, Gov. Martin O’Malley introduced one of the nation’s strictest gun laws, the Maryland Firearms Safety Act of 2013, which was enacted this past Oct. 1. It requires all handgun purchasers to complete four hours of safety training and pass a fingerprint-based background check before getting a license to buy a gun. Maryland joins five other states: Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey that also require fingerprint-based background checks.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Gun Policy and Research produced data corroborating the belief that a fingerprinting method is a successful deterrent to illegal gun sales because it will decrease and prevent “straw purchases.” A straw purchase is when a person with a clean background purchases a gun for someone whose criminal background prevents him or her from legally purchasing or owning a gun.

“So if we can intervene in those sales,” said Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor and researcher at the center, “and if the laws are going to make it more difficult to buy a gun, then the cost of doing gun crimes is going to go up, and fewer people are going to be able to afford that cost.”

Frattaroli continued, “We’re realizing, though, that once a law is passed, the work isn’t done. In a lot of ways, the work really just starts. We need to make sure the systems are in place, to make sure the laws are being implemented properly and to make sure the agencies responsible are adequately trained and supported to do that work.”

According to Maryland law, an authorized gun dealer must wait seven days while conducting a background check before turning over a firearm to a potential buyer. Statewide, more than 85,000 gun-purchase license requests were submitted this year prior to the Oct. 1 enactment of the stringent Firearms Act. Gov. O’Malley pledged in September to provide enforcement agencies the resources needed to deal with the backlog in paperwork created by the thousands of requests.

The backlog has converted the required seven-day wait into months, which has led to frustration for both firearm dealers and their customers. As a result, some dealers have been releasing weapons over to people after the seven days but before the background checks are completed. As of Nov. 28, 2013 the backlog was still at 42,600, and applications being processed are from as far back as Aug. 13, 2013.

Sgt. Marc Black, spokesman for the Maryland State Police, said, “All of the resources available to address the backlog and get the applications processed are being used.”

Sgt. Black also thought most dealers are cooperating and holding onto the firearms until clearance has been confirmed. Currently, there are 40 state law enforcement officers devoted to the task of completing the background checks (data entry is done by classified employees). Gun purchasers could exercise the option to cross state lines and avoid these checks altogether, or they can purchase a gun from a private seller and get around the law as well.

In Maryland, as in much of the United States, gun-sale laws and regulations are necessary and proven as effective evidence-based approaches to gun violence prevention.

But Dr. Carnell Cooper and the staff of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) at the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore take aim at eliminating gun violence at its point of impact — in the everyday lives of gun violence offenders and victims. They address gun-related and other violent crime by asking: What are the root causes that are putting people on this path, and how can they be redirected from what they’re doing?

Cooper started VIP in 1998 after noticing a high number of violence-related trauma victims being treated once and then returning, sometimes with more serious injuries. The VIP staff connects with individuals at the “social, emotional, psychological and spiritual” point of personal crisis when they’re admitted into trauma care. There, they receive an assessment, counseling and social support by a multidisciplinary team to help them begin to make critical changes in their lives. Participation is voluntary and requires completion of a lengthy intake questionnaire by the participant.

The VIP approach is to reach victims immediately following a life-threatening or life-changing event. The interdisciplinary team that ultimately works with VIP participants comes from the medical, social work, epidemiology, parole/probation and social services fields and others, too, if deemed necessary.

The VIP is designed from evidence-based research, and other hospitals in the Baltimore area have been informally recruited to refer potential clients to the program. Data from a three-year study conducted in 2000 (published in “Journal of Trauma” Vol. 61, No. 3) shows evidence from two groups that were followed: one participating in the VIP program and one not participating. The participants in VIP demonstrated an 83 percent decrease in repeat hospitalization due to violent injury (a 36 percent savings as compared to those not getting the intervention), a 75 percent reduction in violent criminal activity and an 82 percent rate of employment at the time of follow-up (compared with 20 percent employment for those who did not get intervention).

Vertigo: The Real Thing

The psychological thriller “Vertigo” is considered an Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, filled with suspense and intrigue. In that classic film, life starts to unravel for a police officer who develops vertigo, a feeling of debilitating dizziness, after a terrifying incident.

The movie is fiction, but the condition of vertigo is very real for about 70 million Americans. Although people at any age are at risk, vertigo is most often diagnosed in those who are 60 years old and older. By age 65, it is the most common reason that adults make appointments to see their doctors.

Vertigo is a specific type of dizziness caused by an inner-ear problem, which is triggered by when the head moves. People who experience it often say it feels as though they are spinning or as though the room around them is spinning when neither is moving.

Vertigo and imbalance can be caused by ear infections, drug toxicity, migraines or a general decrease in the functioning of the inner ear. When the symptoms are at their worst, a person may not be able to stand or walk without falling. Nausea and/or vomiting can also be other side effects.

The most common type of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This happens when crystals in the inner ear, which normally work with the brain to keep people properly balanced, move from their intended spot and migrate into one of the canals of the inner ear so that when the head moves, these crystals send incorrect communication to the brain. These wrong messages result in vertigo and rapid involuntary eye movements. That’s why the spinning feeling happens when individuals bend over, look up, get in and out of bed and roll over in bed, among other situations.

Vertigo is not life threatening, but it can be very disruptive because of the intense dizziness and imbalance that it causes. Sufferers are also at an increased risk for falls.

BPPV is very common in older adults. However with younger individuals, head injuries are the main cause. There is a 30 percent recurrence rate in the first year after treatment, and by five years, about half of all patients have experienced it again.

BPPV is commonly diagnosed with a maneuver called the Dix Hallpike. The person being evaluated should have both vertigo and rapid alternating eye movements for an official diagnosis.

Treatment for BPPV is pretty clean-cut. Physical therapists will use certain maneuvers to put the head and body into positions that direct the inner ear’s crystals back into their proper place.

However, in cases of dizziness and imbalance from other conditions, or from a poorly functioning inner ear, the treatment program is much more individualized.

Physical therapists will do eye/head exercises and will improve gaze stabilization. These can involve having a person focus on a stationary (or moving) target while moving his/her head. Other exercises use repetitive movements so that the brain can get used to certain positions until they no longer cause dizziness.

Treating vertigo is a partnership. A large part of a person’s success can be linked to doing the exercises that their physical therapists give them to complete at home.

While Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” may be scary, with the proper help, the medical condition should not cause any fear.

Susan Bloom is a physical therapist in the Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Department at Northwest Hospital.


New Study: Small changes in DNA can affect the likelihood of diseases including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Feinstein Institute)

New Study: Small changes in DNA can affect the likelihood of diseases including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
(Feinstein Institute)

A new study on the genetics behind schizophrenia and bipolar disorder has found that a tiny genetic difference can increase the risk of being afflicted with the diseases, a difference only found thanks to the unique genetics of Ashkenazi Jews.

“I’ve always known we have a unique demographic history,” said study team leader Dr. Todd Lencz, an associate investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

Modern Ashkenazi Jews often have a keen interest in genetic research due in part to the comparative prevalence of some genetic diseases within the community, a result of the relatively uniform background of the community.

“Ashkenazi Jews are used to the idea of genetically testing for a disease,” Lencz said.

For this study, the idea was to exploit the similarities of Ashkenazi genetics to tease out what the still-existing differences meant for their health.

“The goal was to identify genetic risk factors for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” Lencz said.

At first, the study had focused just on schizophrenia, but it was later expanded to include bipolar disorder due to the overlap in the genetics of the two disorders making a combined study of both worthwhile. The team looked at the gene called NDST3 and found that with just one chemical changed in the complex ladder of DNA composing it, the chances of having schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were slightly increased.

“There are millions of variations in genes, and typically the differences are very subtle,” Lencz said. “It takes thousands of tests to detect differences, but it’s easier when they are closely related.”

“It’s really interesting that the research is looking at Ashkenazi Jews like me,” said Matt [last name withheld for confidentiality], a young lawyer living in northern Virginia who said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was a teenager.

Matt uses medication and therapy to control his bipolar disorder and said it rarely causes him much trouble. But he remembers how the mood swings would affect him and how even knowing what was causing it didn’t help.

“It would just be the utter inability to imagine anything good happening, and then I’d start to get really angry and yell a lot,” he said of his pre-treatment days. “That doesn’t really happen anymore, but, yeah, I still worry about it.”

Of the approximately 2,500 Ashkenazi Jews who had their DNA used in the study, a little more than 900 presented the NDST3 risk factor, but when compared with more than 25,000 people from all kinds of backgrounds, only about a quarter displayed the irregular gene.

“Ashkenazi homogeneity enhances our ability to detect these risk factors,” Lencz said.

While the differences between the furthest-related humans is tiny evolutionarily speaking, when checking for individual differences between people’s genetics, closer relations help highlight hidden changes from mutation.

“All Ashkenazim today are all derived from a few hundred ancestors,” Lencz said, explaining that the number is probably between 200 and 300 individuals from between 700 and 800 years ago.

“We’re all close cousins,” he said.

Despite the prevalence of the gene, Lencz said it is only one of many risk factors and a minor one at that, raising the chances of expressing the diseases by perhaps a tenth of 1 percent.

“The increase is very subtle,” Lencz said. “It wouldn’t be something to test for.”

What’s important about their findings is how they help researchers
understand the development of the disease, and they may lead to new ideas about treatment.

“It’s incredibly advantageous in trying to identify the genes behind the diseases,” Lencz said.

“Mine is under control luckily, but it would be great if there were even better treatments,” Matt said.

The utility of using Ashkenazi genes applies beyond his own work, Lencz said. The Ashkenazi Genomics Consortium pools its resources to be able to get the most out of studying the genome.

“It will give us new approaches to treating the diseases,” he said.

Eric Hal Schwartz writes for JT’s sister publication, Washington Jewish Week.

Start Your Ovens!


Glori Spriggs takes home $1 million for her award-winning potatoes at the iconic Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

The iconic Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest keeps going strong. I attended this year’s event at the stunning new Aria Hotel in Las Vegas. This truly American competition started in 1949: No-knead water-rising twists (a nut sweet roll raised under water) won the grand prize, and Eleanor Roosevelt attended as a guest. The contest keeps evolving to reflect changes in consumer lifestyles and cooking trends. To ensure quick and easy recipes, this year’s entries were capped at seven ingredients and 30 minutes or less of active prep time. In the Aria Grand Ballroom, 100 finalists waited anxiously. The grand prize ($1 million) went to Glori Spriggs of Henderson, Nev., for her loaded potato pinwheels.

Each recipe makes use of at least one Pillsbury product. Kosher cooks who want to duplicate the luscious recipes at home have to be even more creative. For instance, to create your own kosher pinwheels, Trader Joe’s has its own refrigerated crescent roll dough, and it is kosher! Trader Joe’s also has kosher biscuits.

I have shared a few recipes here with tips to make them kosher. I believe any good kosher cook could duplicate many of the winning recipes and tailor them to a kosher version. The recipes are simply delicious (I tasted a lot of them). I urge you to go to the Pillsbury Bake-Off website, where you can view every one of the 100 final recipes or purchase the soft-cover “Pillsbury Bake-Off 100 Winning Recipes” booklet, which is available at supermarkets.

Next year’s contest will be in Nashville, Tenn. On the Bake-Off’s website you can find details on how to enter. So start your ovens! Pillsbury may have retired its old slogan, “Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven,” but I still say that nothing says “lovin’” better than a million bucks.

Grand Prize Winner: Loaded Potato Pinwheels >>
Berry-filled Shortbread Brunch Tart >>
Honey Sesame Bagels >>

Tips & Tricks
• Recipes that call for real bacon can be substituted with kosher Facon (from the Giant).
• Crescent or biscuit roll ingredients are available kosher at Trader Joe’s.
• Use a few coffee filters on a plate to drain any fried foods, to strain your soups or to tie fresh herbs.
• Use a good store-bought pesto as an addition to burgers, sandwiches, chicken or fish.

Ilene Spector is an area freelance writer.

Chesed Starts At Home

rabinowitz_elishevaSome people find performing chesed, kindness, an easy task.

As Jews, we perform chesed for people in the following order: 1.people who are closest to us, 2. our neighbors and 3. the rest of the world.

We are blessed to live in a community that encourages chesed. I interviewed two rabbis, Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, of Tiferes Yisroel, and Rabbi Shmuel Silber, of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, both of whom had recently encouraged their congregants to increase the amount of chesed they were doing.

Rabbi Goldberger said chesed is the “central way of a Jew.” He said he looks forward to learning “Ahavas Chesed” (“Love of Kindness”) by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen (the Chofetz Chaim) with his congregants, and encouraging them to incorporate chesed into their homes, shul and community.

When I asked Rabbi Goldberger about the fact that some families feel overwhelmed and can’t seem to perform any extra chesed outside their home, he responded that in some cases, the family dynamics need to be addressed. For example, some families may only be able to focus on chesed within their family, whereas other families will have the ability to focus on chesed outside the family.

He said, “Performing chesed for someone else can liberating for one who is overwhelmed.”

Rabbi Goldberger suggested the entire family engage in chesed activities such as visiting the sick or elderly, making a meal for someone who just had a baby or making guests feel welcome.

Rabbi Silber discussed how in his Kol Nidrei drasha, he recommended that his constituents increase their level of chesed. He stated that performing chesed “refines us” and “makes us into better people.”

“Being a baal chesed [someone who performs acts of kindness] will make a husband more attentive to the needs of his wife. When you live life to benefit the other, it changes and enhances all of your life relationships,” he said.

Jewish law requires that a man be as concerned about his wife as he would be about himself. Happiness fills their lives when each spouse is concerned for the other (“Sifre”). Therefore, a necessary factor for building a marriage and a happy home is kindness. Marriage is an opportunity to shift the focus from oneself to one’s spouse and to be concerned about one’s spouse’s wellbeing.

I want to encourage readers to look for small opportunities to perform chesed in their homes, such as being more compassionate, speaking more gently and lovingly, smiling more frequently, making a favorite meal for one of your family members, calling a family member who you haven’t spoken to recently, writing an “I love you” note and placing it in a family member’s lunch, under his or her pillow or on his or her desk, taking out the garbage or doing laundry with an appreciation for the fact that you have food and clothes, giving your child an extra hug, preparing a drink for your spouse when he or she comes home or being loving to your family even when you are upset. Our increased level of chesed should bring blessing to the people of Israel.

A special thanks to Rabbi Goldberger and Rabbi Silber for their time.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local licensed clinical professional counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118 or Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.