Filmed in Baltimore

Courtesy of Rabinowitz Communications

Courtesy of Rabinowitz Communications

Academy Award-nominated and three-time Emmy Award-winning director Robert Gardner releases his latest masterpiece, “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story” to the silver screen next week on PBS.

Airing Sept. 9, the Gardner Films and Unity Production Foundation docudrama shares the story of Noor Inayat Khan, a young Muslim woman who sacrificed her own life to join the Allied forces. Filmed in Baltimore and narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, the movie showcases the last undercover radio operator for Great Britain in Nazi-occupied Paris. Serving as a spy, Khan was eventually arrested and killed for her participation in the French Resistance.

“She is a forgotten story in history,” said Alex Kronemer, one of the film’s executive producers. “Khan was betrayed and shot because she fought the Nazis. She is a woman who opposed and confronted racial inequality and injustice. As a half-American, half-Indian Muslim woman, it is rare to find a story like hers. I am personally in awe her interfaith work and role in World War II.”

After drawing inspiration from the 2009 documentary “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Must Really Think,” the production team at Unity Production Foundation began searching for her story five years ago. Through his studies, Kronemer discovered that the largest volunteer army in World War II was from India. After scouring through tons of stories, they finally found Khan. Inviting a team of international scholars and two surviving members of Khan’s family to join the team, Khan proved to be the perfect centerpiece for the type of documentary they wanted to create.

“At first, it was hard to find anything at all,” said Michael Wolfe, the other executive producer. “After two years, we finally found Noor. She is a producer’s dream. In addition to being the perfect story, she was also a writer. She did dangerous work, and it was well documented. We have her voice, as well as the facts, to share her story.”

As the daughter of famed Muslim Indian spiritual leader Hazat Inayat Khan, she was raised to believe in interfaith equality. Through her father’s upbringing, she morally opposed the Nazis and wanted to fight for the oppressed, especially the Jewish people. By joining the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and training as a wireless operator in 1940, she eventually became a special operations executive for Great Britain.

“There is a direct connection between her and the Jewish people,” said Wolfe. “Her own people were oppressed in India, and she thought any oppression was wrong. Historically, Islam and Judaism have a long and productive history together in Europe. She had every reason to want to protect the Jews.”

Using Baltimore as his backdrop, Gardner recreates Khan’s world in Nazi-occupied France. Because Gardner’s independent production company, Gardner Films, has been located in Baltimore since 1996, the director is familiar with the terrain. Using a North Baltimore Mennonite Church for Paris prison cells, the mansion house at Cylburn Arboretum as the Gestapo headquarters and the retaining wall of a Hampden factory parking lot as the Dachau concentration camp, native Baltimoreans will see hometown sights double as European locations. Gardner even uses his own house in Roland Park as a set for Noor’s childhood home in Paris.

“There is a section in Baltimore, Mount Vernon Square, that was built in the 19th century by a French architect,” explained Wolfe. “Since it looks very European, it was the perfect backdrop as the streets of Paris. There are so many places in Baltimore that work seamlessly as 1930s Europe.”

In addition to filming in Baltimore, the entire cast and crew was also from Baltimore. The casting was completed by Pat Moran + Associates, the same company that worked on “The Wire” and is involved with “House of Cards.” In addition, Baltimore veterans on the production crew have worked on “Veep” and
several John Waters films.

Already available for streaming, the film has been shown online. As the 10th documentary in an award-winning documentary series, UFP is proud of its final product.

“After living her story, I feel like I know her,” said Kronemer. “When she’s captured and killed, I get choked up watching it. Her story is engaging, and she was a pioneer of her time.”

The documentary’s national debut is this Tuesday on PBS. Check local listings for the time.

Reisterstown Keeps Eye on Prize

Nearly four years after the Reisterstown Improvement Association (RIA) formed, the Northwest Baltimore County town is making headway on revitalizing its often-overlooked Main Street area.

With the help of a dedicated county employee, Amy Mantay, as town manager, the Main Street Committee formed and set up Reisterstown to apply for Maryland Main Street status, which the group did this past spring. As Mantay’s two-year term approaches its end this fall, the town appears to be in better shape than it was when she arrived.

This summer saw the second installment of the RIA’s Music on Main Street series, which draws hundreds to Franklin Middle School for summer concerts, a farmers’ market and the dedication of $2 million by the Maryland State Highway Administration to streetscape projects. This weekend marks the 29th annual Reisterstown Festival.

“We’re still working to get things accomplished,” said RIA President Glenn Barnes.

The most recent victory came in the form of $2 million in roadway and sidewalk improvements and community enhancements. The money was announced in May at a news conference with Delegate Adrienne Jones, the speaker pro tem for the Maryland House of Delegates, and Maryland Transportation Secretary Jim Smith; at the ceremony, the pair also announced $762,000 for improvements in the Liberty Road corridor.

“These transportation enhancements and upgrades will make the corridors along Liberty Road in Randallstown and Main Street in Reisterstown safer for drivers and pedestrians and will enhance the beauty and charm in these thriving communities,” Jones said in a statement.

Phase 1 focuses on Stocksdale Road to Woodley Avenue, which is the part of Main Street that curves just north of the Chartley Shopping Center. This part of the project includes pavement resurfacing and remarking, reconstruction of sidewalks, curbs, gutters and driveway ramps as well as new pedestrian lights similar to the lantern-style lamps farther north on Main Street. Construction will begin after the Reisterstown Festival.

Phase 2 will bring the same improvements from Woodley Avenue to Glyndon Avenue and should begin in spring 2015.

In June, the state highway authority painted new pavement markings on Main Street, starting at the south end at Woodley Avenue and ending on the north end at MD-30 (Hanover Pike), to separate the driving lanes from the on-street parking areas.

A sign welcoming travelers to historic Reisterstown will also be installed in the southern entrance to the area, Barnes said.

As roadway and pedestrian façade improvements are made, commercial revitalization remains at the top of the agenda for Main Street advocates. The town’s new “sustainable community” designation could translate to some help in the area. In June, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Planning Department announced the designation for Reisterstown, which qualifies the town to apply for state funds on commercial revitalization, small business finance, business retention and attraction and home ownership encouragement.

More funding and resources could also come to Reisterstown in the near future via a Maryland Main Street designation. The program, which has a list of specific criteria Reisterstown has mostly met through the Main Street Committee, includes on-site visits and design assistance, commercial revitalization training and grants and loans education.

A hurdle to achieving that status, Barnes said, is that Reisterstown doesn’t have the required town manager, which many other Maryland Main Street locales have by virtue of being incorporated towns.

“We don’t think they’re going to allow that, so what we’re trying to do, we’ve sent letters out to large corporations and foundations hoping to get them to agree to sponsor our projects on Main Street and possibly our town manager,” he said. “There’s always a way if you look around.”

Barnes and his organization will be spreading the word about Main Street revitalization at this weekend’s Reisterstown Festival, which begins Saturday at 9 a.m. with the parade and runs through Sunday evening. The festival features more than 100 vendors, a large area for kids’ activities, a beer garden with a 6-foot TV that will be showing the Orioles game on Saturday and the Ravens game on Sunday, a car show, a stunt bicyclist and an eclectic variety of music including the Cris Jacobs Band, Carey Ziegler’s Expensive Hobby and Dean Drawford and the Dunn’s River Band.

Sherri Brogan, this year’s festival co-chair and a regular at Music on Main Street, sees the festival as a way for people to be with their community and get to know their neighbors.

“I think anytime you do an event like Music on Main Street, you’re bringing the community together,” she said. “I think that’s very special.”

With so much on the horizon for Reisterstown and all the nearby development in Owings Mills, Brogan and Barnes are feeling good about the town’s future.

“With the Metro Centre [at Owings Mills] expanding and Foundry Row and all that, there’s going to be a lot of people looking at this area; big restaurants and chain stores, they may want to be nearby, and we are nearby,” Barnes said.

Marylanders Volunteer in Israeli Hospital

Scott Goldstein, first engine lieutenant at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company, treats a patient at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Photos provided)

Scott Goldstein, first engine lieutenant at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company, treats a patient at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Photos provided)

Hospital officials were showing Evan Feuer around the emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon when they heard tires screeching outside. A woman in the car was in cardiac arrest.

Within minutes, and before doctors had arrived, the woman was intubated, had an IV placed and was breathing thanks to Feuer, who managed the woman’s airway, and hospital paramedics and nurses. Within a half hour she was off to the intensive care unit.

“That was my welcome to Israel, my first patient,” said Feuer, a Silver Spring native and paramedic of more than 20 years.

Feuer, four Baltimore residents and a Texas nurse were deployed on a week-long volunteer mission to the hospital to assist medical personnel in various capacities. Barzilai, located miles from Gaza, was inundated with patients during Operation Protective Edge.

Joining Feuer on the mission were Scott Goldstein, first engine lieutenant at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company; Scott Weiner, an EMS lieutenant at the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company; and two members of Hatzalah of Baltimore, Jonathan Lerner and David Heyman. The Texas participant was Wendi Schambach.

They were deployed through the Emergency Volunteers Project, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that recruits and trains emergency service workers to back up first responders in Israel. The need for EVP volunteers arises during conflicts, an EVP official said, when demand for medical services is high but manpower is reduced as Israeli EMTs in the reserves are called to the frontlines or serve in infantry. With no mutual aid agreements with its neighbors, Israel calls in outside help, in this case through EVP.

The organization, which started four years ago, works with 600 personnel in the U.S., and seeks people with years of experience in high-pressure environments. EVP raises money on an as-needed basis for the deployments and trainings, an official said.

This deployment was EVP’s second during Operation Protective Edge. The first sent firefighters to respond to rocket attacks along the Gaza border and elsewhere. Those volunteers extinguished a brush fire in a kibbutz’s field that was hit by a rocket.

Scott Goldstein (center) and Scott Weiner (right) discuss a surgery they assisted in with Emergency Volunteers Project CEO Adi Zahavi.

Scott Goldstein (center) and Scott Weiner (right) discuss a surgery they assisted in with Emergency Volunteers Project CEO Adi Zahavi.

The most recent deployment sent the six Americans to Barzilai, an almost 600-bed facility that has seen more than 1,500 patients during the latest military operations. Those who volunteered were called Sunday evening, Aug. 24, and were on planes to Israel within 48 hours. The deployment’s last day was Monday.

“It’s a way for me to step up and help my friends and family over here, and normally, I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Goldstein, who had been to Israel twice prior to this deployment. “Hopefully, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Weiner, who had the support of his wife and kids, said going on the deployment was a no-brainer.

“I didn’t really think twice about it,” he said. “The reality of it is, it’s our homeland. That’s how I feel about it.”

His family’s foundation, the Roz and Marvin H. Weiner Family Foundation, was one of several organizations that sponsored the deployment. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and Texas-based John Hagee Ministries also sponsored the trip.

For The Associated, devoting resources to EVP met its requirements of specific, meaningful and safe work.

“We wanted to support our sister city,” said Mary Haar, director of The Associated’s Israel and Overseas department. “They’re doing good work in Ashkelon.”

The six volunteers spent their time working in Barzilai’s emergency room, operating room and intensive care unit and helped with intake of patients
as well. In addition to the woman in cardiac arrest, patients they helped included a boy with severe burns from an at-home accident, a patient with a bad snakebite and a bicyclist critically injured in a car accident.

By the end of the deployment, hospital staff and EVP volunteers were working together seamlessly.

For Feuer, who spent 15 months in Iraq as a medic and a combat medical trainer, it was easy to see the need for EVP.

“They were getting overwhelmed with patients. This is a small, 18-bed ER [that] had to process 70 to 80 patients an hour,” said Feuer, who works part time as a paramedic in Trenton, N.J., and runs several businesses. “They were overwhelmed, their facility was overwhelmed, and their staff was overwhelmed, and our role was to ease some of that burden as much as we were able to.”

Before heading home, EVP volunteers were honored at a hospital ceremony, which was attended by American Embassy officials, and met with members of the Knesset.

Volunteers walked away from the experience with several impressions and ideas. Things at the hospital seem to be returning to normal, or “standard insanity,” Feuer said.

Goldstein and Weiner hope to start a Baltimore chapter of EVP to help with future recruits and training. But ultimately, they left feeling like they helped out in a conflict that can seem so far away from the U.S.

“I lived in Israel in the past,” Feuer said. “As an American Jew, looking at the news every day, seeing what’s going without being able to lay your hands down and affect any difference is difficult.”

We Are What We Remember

The last paragraph of Ki Tetze is the maftir reading in non-Reform congregations on the Shabbat before Purim. Its opening word, zachor, remember, names that Shabbat.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt — how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when the Eternal your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Eternal your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”

I was present on a Yom Kippur morning many years ago when Rabbi Harold Schulweis asked his congregation if they could name members of Hitler’s SS. And the names came pouring out from all corners of the sanctuary: Himmler, Eichmann, Goering, and on. And then Rabbi Schulweis asked the community to name the people who tried to save Anne Frank and her family. Silence.

Blot out the memory of Amalek, of all those who have tried to destroy us. But, he asked, whose names have we blotted out and whose names have we remembered? In focusing on our suffering, we have chosen to see ourselves as victims, to see in others the potential hater.

For so many of us, being Jewish is bound up in being vulnerable. In the most profound and wonderful ways, we have been nurtured on the biblical teaching from Exodus, “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been slaves in the land of Egypt.” We remember our suffering — so that we will feel with those who suffer. We remember our suffering — so that we will nurture the courage to speak out against injustice. We remember our pain.

But there is a dark side to remembering pain. Neuroscience has joined with the therapeutic professions to teach us that we participate in creating our reality. Our experiences and the ways we think about them — our insights and reflections — change the neural connections that make up our brains. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel writes, “This revelation is based on one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the last 20 years: How we focus our attention shapes the structure of the brain.”

And according to the writer Diane Ackerman, “In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you.”

As a Jewish people, we have formed our ideas of the world and our place in it. Deep down — and it is deep down — many of us believe that the whole world wants the Jews dead. Our brains are constantly on high-stress alert, vigilant against potential attack. There is danger in the world. It’s good that Israel has a powerful and smart army. It’s good that the Anti-Defamation League keeps its eye on acts of bigotry and hatred. But sometimes, the following also is true: If we have friends out there, we might not see them.

We approach the world with profound mistrust. This affects our political views and our foreign policy and crushes our hopes for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Our deep-down primal narrative tells us that “the other” can’t be trusted.

Our memories, emotional responses and primal narratives become encoded deep within us, forming our sense of who we are. When we are not aware of the ways we frame the world, these primal responses can wreak havoc in our lives. A most painful example is that those who were abused as children are at risk of becoming abusers themselves. As a people, we too are at risk — not just of being persecuted. We are at risk if we do not see the Hebrew graffiti all over the Old City of Jerusalem — and the Old City of Hebron — or on mosques in the Galilee targeted for arson: Mavet la-aravim, reads the graffiti. Death to the Arabs.

We are what we remember. But we can choose how we remember. We need to transform our pain into empathy, our fear into courage and our mourning into joy. We need to remember that we were vulnerable and afraid — so that we will fill our world with healing and blessing.

Rabbi Shira Milgrom is a rabbi at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, N.Y., and author of articles about Jewish spirituality, education, healing and women in Judaism. This column first appeared on

Remember the Service of Years Ago

runyan_josh_otTwo centuries ago, the European world awaited what would become of the curious American experiment that had popped up on the other side of the Atlantic. Just 38 years prior, delegates from each of the 13 colonies from Georgia to Massachusetts declared their independence from King George III and five years after that defeated his forces at the Battle of Yorktown with the help of the French navy. The United States of America was born.

But how that country would operate and under whose influence was a question that would not be decided until the War of 1812. In the early part of September 1814, with the British Armada aiming its guns at Baltimore, residents here were unsure how it would all turn out. The nation’s capital to the south lay in ruins, and a ragtag group of volunteers, regular soldiers and militiamen were left to defend Fort McHenry against the coming British onslaught.

To any student of history or baseball fan, the outcome of the Battle of Baltimore was clear. As memorialized in the verses penned by Francis Scott Key — that “star-spangled banner” still waves “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” — America was not only here to stay, but would be unencumbered by the petty politics of Europe.

The Monroe Doctrine would formally spell out diplomatically this notion of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny, but lost in the popular history are the contributions of individual patriots whose names are not enshrined in the various doctrines or upon declarations, constitutions and anthems of the time.

Were it not for the actions of two Jewish Americans, the story of the United States’ final throwing off of European chains and the nation’s early history might have been vastly different. Mendes Cohen, the subject of a new exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, was among the defenders the night of Sept. 13, 1814, when the British ships began their barrage on Fort McHenry. As you’ll read in this week’s JT, the bombardment nearly succeeded in destroying the fort, but a quick-thinking Cohen and two other men saved the installation’s gunpowder when a British bomb fell on the fort’s magazine.

Cohen would go on to travel the world, becoming in the words of the Jewish museum, a “Forrest Gump” of his time. But the city of Baltimore and the country have much to be thankful for in the self-sacrifice and dedication of Cohen and the rest of Fort McHenry’s defenders.

So too does the nation owe a debt of gratitude to Uriah P. Levy, a Jewish sailor who served in the fledgling American Navy, as Baltimore came under attack. Rising through the ranks — he is remembered at the U.S. Naval Academy, where the Jewish chapel bears his name, as Commodore Levy — he did away with flogging as a punishment in the Navy and given his own bitter experience with anti-Semitism as a sailor, he helped turn it into the inclusive force it is today.

Levy’s words, memorialized at the academy, provide a window into immigrant thinking and speak of the duty that all Americans, but especially its minorities, share in ensuring the continuation of this great country: “There will be other Hebrews, in times to come, of whom America will have need. By serving myself, I will help give them a chance to serve.”


How His Garden Grows

When Dr. Len Muller is not at the Bridge Club in Pikesville or visiting his grandchildren in Ellicott City, he can probably be found tending the flowerbeds he designed and planted at Bluestone Park near his condominium at Quarry Lake at Greenspring.

Since moving from his native South Africa to Baltimore eight years ago, the 72-year-old retired family physician and award-winning gardener and landscaper has been hard at work making his neighborhood beautiful.

Muller retired from medicine at 58 so he could dedicate himself to horticulture and landscaping. Much of what he knows about gardening he learned during his medical training.

“In South Africa, you do botany as part of the science curriculum in medical school,” he said. Muller’s dedication paid off. His gardens won Cape Town province’s gardening competitions for eight years straight and he earned top prize in the large garden category of South Africa’s national competition in 2007.

Despite his love of gardening, when Muller and his wife, Charmian, relocated to Baltimore to be near their children and grandchildren, they purchased a condominium with no outdoor space. Fortunately for Muller’s neighbors, his passion served as impetus for him to use his talent for the greater good.

At first, explained Muller, who is chairman of the condominium’s landscaping committee, he began doing some gardening on the grounds
surrounding his building. Soon, he discovered Bluestone Park.

“Almost everything that was planted previously had died. There was only a lawn and trees,” he said.

So Muller approached the homeowners’ association asking for its permission and funding to landscape the park on his own.

Before he began the project, Muller researched native American plants.

“The climate in South Africa is more Mediterranean, so this was all foreign to me,” he said. “I studied what grows here and brought in bees, birds and butterflies. This gets no irrigation. Everything survives because of the summer rain.”

Now the English country-style garden includes yellow, red, pink and white roses, rudbeckia, coreopsis, spider, altura, berberis and pennisitum as well as Russian sage, catmint and lavender. Appreciative neighborhood residents run, walk their dogs, birdwatch and push baby strollers through the lakeside park.

Muller weeds and maintains the park, adding new plants and flowers throughout the seasons. He does his best to keep deer and beetles at bay. He has also designed some of the area’s median strips.

“It’s my passion. I come every day to check on it and make sure it thrives,” he said. “Now, in the evenings, the park is full of people. Maybe it will inspire others to do this in public spaces. It’s a God-given gift to enjoy.”

A Lifelong Connection


For Sara Rubinstein, Masa was a chance to build employment prospects. (Provided)

Starting in just a couple of days, nearly 250 young Jewish adults from Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., will leave their American homes and hop on a plane to the Holy Land.

Now in its 11th season, Masa Israel Journey sends more than 10,000 Diaspora Jews to live, work and study in Israel each year. As a joint project between the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa provides more than 200 programs that run for five months to a year. Through Masa grants, young Jewish adults can afford to live in Israel for extensive periods, while heavily subsidized programs, such as Israel Teaching Fellows, pay for participants’ round-trip airfare, accommodations and Hebrew classes and provide food stipends.

According to The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the 2014-15 Masa programs will include 117 participants from Baltimore and 128 participants from the Washington, D.C., area.

“Masa creates lifelong connections between Israel and young Jewish adults,” said Jill Max, chair of The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center. “The Associated in Baltimore funds Masa as one of our flagship programs because we see the impact it makes in our community every day. Many Baltimoreans leave on their Masa programs and return to work in the Jewish professional world. Others might make aliyah and stay permanently.”

Baltimore is sending 106 gap-year students and 11 study-abroad and post-college students this year; Washington is sending 79 gap-year students and 49 study-abroad and post-college students. As more programs start in the winter and spring months, the number of Baltimore and Washington participants most likely will increase in 2015.

Erica Bergstein is using the experience “to continue my self-exploration as a Jewish woman.” (Provided)

Erica Bergstein is using the experience “to continue my self-exploration as a Jewish woman.” (Provided)

David Miller, Masa Israel Journey’s North American director, characterized regional participation in the program as impressive.

“Masa Israel Journey’s partnerships with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and The Associated have grown into an amazing community of incredible young adults,” he said. “They are emerging leaders not only in their professional fields, but also in their local communities.”

Current gap-year participant Lindsey Rubin said that unsettling current events have failed to diminish her commitment to seeing Israel up close.

“I have been dreaming about going on my Israel gap-year program since I was an 8-year-old at Jewish sleep-away camp,” she said. “In terms of Operation Protective Edge, I’m not scared at all. I just can’t believe I am finally going to live in Israel for a whole year.”

Due to the lure of living in Israel, many Masa participants put everything on hold to embark on their journey. Erica Bergstein, 27, of Columbia quit her job as a clinical practice and education specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center to live in the Jewish state for 10 months.

“The ability to experience Israel through Masa will allow me to continue my self-exploration as a Jewish woman and community member,” said Bergstein, who will intern at Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “As an Israel government fellow, I will be immersed in Jewish history and culture. The experience will undeniably strengthen my bond to the State of Israel and to Judaism.”

After getting involved with Israel advocacy through her graduate school’s Jewish Student Association and The Associated, Bergstein traveled to Israel for the first time as part of the Birthright program last January. From that moment on, she wanted to find a way back. Next week, she will move into her Mount Scopus apartment in Jerusalem.

According to Max, Bergstein’s desire to live in Israel after Birthright is not unique. Many participants join Masa programs after realizing 10 days of a free tour is not enough.

“A large number of Masa participants from the Baltimore area participated on Birthright,” said Max. “They fall in love with the country and look for more long-term programs.”

With an eye on employment prospects, Gaithersburg resident Sara Rubinstein joined Masa to help construct her resume.

“Masa provided me with a whole team of career counselors and resume writers to help me create a unique resume for each job application,” said Rubinstein. “I feel like they are just as dedicated and committed to finding me a job as I am.”

Hannah Elovitz, who participated in a Masa Hillel Fellowship program, shared a similar story, noting that she landed a job as a communications associate at Hillel International within her first month of returning home.

“I happened to sit in on the Masa-Hillel Fellowship information session at the leadership summit in Israel; I hadn’t given serious thought to working for Hillel and wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit,” said Elovitz. “Jamie Schiffman (Hillel’s interim chief talent officer and director of professional development) encouraged me to apply, and I’m so happy I did. We had a lot of great professional development sessions that helped me gain a greater sense of what Hillel
is about.”

According to Elovitz, six out of this year’s 14 Masa Hillel fellows began working at Hillels across the country. Within their first three months back from Israel, all of them started new Hillel jobs.

D.C. alumni board member Lauren Rosenthal became active in the local Masa community to ease her transition back from Israel.

“I joined the board and got involved with the Masa alumni. I felt like not everyone understood what I had just done,” said Rosenthal. “I wanted to find others like me and give them a network to belong to.”

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

What We Need Is Healthy Communication

runyan_josh_otBack-to-school season is firmly upon us, and with the sales on school supplies just recently ended, the big yellow buses have returned local streets to quagmires of morning and afternoon traffic. Many children are overjoyed at meeting friends they haven’t seen all summer, while quite a few parents are ecstatic that the little ones are once again out of the house for the daytime hours.

But amid the celebrating, there’s also the stress: of new schools, of new friends, of new car-pool routes. For a growing group of new school parents, whose children have — according to Maryland law — 20 days to comply with inoculation requirements, there’s the stress of choosing whether or not to vaccinate their children.

For them, as you’ll read in this week’s cover story, to comply means to subject their children to untold harm. Whatever the questions surrounding the shaky science they rely on, in their minds the threat of autism is real and the danger of vaccinations, as promulgated in a growing body of websites and social media campaigns, darn near certain.

On the other side, parents who adhere to the recommendations of such bodies as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control are increasingly worried about the prospect of their own children, unvaccinated infants among them, being subjected to a plethora of diseases once thought eradicated. For them, the growing anti-vaccination movement is a clear and present danger.

To say that emotions are high in this environment would be an understatement. That 18 outbreaks and 593 confirmed cases of measles occurred in this country between Jan. 1 and Aug. 8 of this year is downright frightening. That whooping cough has experienced a record increase — 9,964 cases from Jan. 1 to June 16, a 24 percent increase over the same time period last year according to the CDC — is horrific.

The culprit identified by authorities for this degradation in public health is the failure of parents to vaccinate their children. Polio was once thought a disease of the past in the developed world, but there are parents here in Baltimore who regard the disease, which killed thousands in 1916, crippled no less than President Franklin D. Roosevelt and continued to kill and disable through the 1950s, as posing little more threat than the common cold in an otherwise healthy child.

That this is a viewpoint gaining a growing, albeit limited, acceptance is scary. But that parents fear reprisals from their friends and neighbors for doing what they legitimately feel is in their children’s best interests is just as worrisome.

Perhaps what is needed is more communication. Far too often, healthcare in this country has amounted to a top-down “do as I say” approach on the part of policymakers and doctors. But while such an approach might have worked in an age where information was scarce, today many people harbor a visceral distrust of “official” dogma. They turn to the Internet, where their views can be magnified, confirmed and spread.

At the very least, those on both sides of the vaccination debate speak for the children. As old-time diseases reappear and spread, it’s time they start talking to each other, rather than past each other.


Israel, Palestinians agree to new cease-fire

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egypt announced a new open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian groups shortly after an Israeli struck by a Gaza mortar died of his wounds.

The official Egyptian News Agency announced Tuesday evening that the cease-fire would begin at 7 p.m.

In the hour leading up to the announced cease-fire, dozens of mortars and rockets were fired at southern Israel. One Israeli was killed and at least two more were seriously injured in the Eshkol region.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a televised speech at the start of a leadership meeting in Ramallah, said, “We announce the Palestinian leadership’s agreement to Egypt’s call for a comprehensive and lasting truce beginning at 7 p.m. today.”

Israeli Cabinet ministers reportedly were informed earlier in the evening that the cease-fire proposal had been accepted. The proposal did not require a Cabinet vote.

According to reports, the cease-fire would see the immediate opening of border crossings from Gaza into Israel and Egypt, and the expansion of Gaza’s fishing zone.

The second phase would begin in a month, with discussion of the construction of a Gaza seaport and the Israeli release of Hamas prisoners.

The sides have agreed to numerous cease-fires since Israel launched its military operation in Gaza early last month to stop rocket fire from the coastal strip.

The U.S. State Department welcomed news of the cease-fire.

“We call on all parties to fully and completely comply with its terms, and hope very much that the cease-fire will prove to be durable and sustainable,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the daily briefing.

ADL Documents Rise in Global Anti-Semitism

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in central Paris, which was recently attacked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in central Paris, which was recently attacked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. (Wikimedia Commons)

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League details what it calls a “dramatic upsurge in violence and vitriol against Jews” related to Operation Protective Edge.

The ADL reported incidents linked to anti-Israel protests that involved attacks against Jews and Jewish buildings in Western Europe, South America, Canada, Australia and North and South Africa. The report did not include incidents in the U.S.

“There was a dramatic upsurge in violence against Jews and Jewish institutions around the world during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, said in a statement. From France to Argentina, from Canada to Chile, synagogues were attacked, Jewish cultural centers were vandalized, Jewish shops were threatened, and identifiably Jewish individuals [were] beaten on the street. Anti-Semitism was in the air, and in the streets.”

The ADL will share its report with members of Congress and world leaders in effort to raise awareness of the problem. The ADL Global 100 poll, a survey of anti-Semitic attitudes, found that one-quarter of those surveyed in 100 counties harbored anti-Semitic attitude.

The ADL detailed some examples in a statement that included shouts of “Jews to the gas!” at an anti-Israel rally in Germany; a newspaper in Spain publishing an op-ed with blunt anti-Semitism; a sign that said “Well done Israel, Hitler would be proud” at a London protest; signs showing [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu drinking the blood of Palestinian children in various places; and pro-Palestinian protesters pelting Jews with cans and eggs and shouting at them in Manchester, England.