Going It Alone

runyan_josh_otBack in February, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned of the consequences facing Israel if the American-led peace talks between the Jewish state and its Palestinian neighbors fell apart. He alluded to the growing strength of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and worried that should peace fail, Israel would find itself isolated from the rest of the world.

“Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” he said at the time. “You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”

As anyone who has been conscious of world events since that time knows, the peace talks collapsed shortly after the Palestinian Authority, with whom the Israelis had been negotiating, entered into a unity government with Hamas, the terrorist group that “governs” the Gaza Strip. Shortly thereafter, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by suspected Hamas operatives in the West Bank; a Palestinian teenager was murdered in an apparent revenge attack by Israeli youths; Hamas renewed its rocket barrage of Israel; and the Jewish state launched Operation Protective Edge, a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas’ offensive capabilities and a network of tunnels the group has dug under the Gaza border with Israel.

Kerry warned of economic and political isolation. What Israel got — through no choice or fault of its own — was terror and bloodshed. And if news reports of conversations between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are to be believed, it appears that in addition to the blood and the bombs, Israel, having lost the support of the United States to continue to invoke its right to self-defense, now finds itself as isolated as ever.

But to say that Israel has no friends in the world would be to lie. The fact of the matter is, twice as many Americans, according to the results of a Pew Research Poll released Monday, blame Hamas rather than Israel for the current crisis. Half of those polled say that Israel’s response to the rockets and the tunnels, despite the fact that vastly more Palestinians have been killed — more than 1,000 versus more than 50 on the Israeli side — is “about right” or has “not gone far enough.”

Even more, Baltimore’s and other Jewish communities around the world have rallied on behalf of Israel and, as you’ll read in this week’s JT, immigration to the Jewish state continues.

The problem isn’t that Israel doesn’t have friends, it’s that many of the friends it has continue to bemoan the lack of international support behind Israel’s defense. If there’s anything the current crisis and the many wars Israel has fought since its founding in 1948 indicate it’s that sometimes, Israel and the Jewish people that support it must go it alone.


Sharfstein Joins Hopkins School of Public Health

Josh Sharf WEBDr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, announced Wednesday that he will be stepping down from his current position and joining the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as its new associated dean for public health practice and training.

The move is effective Jan. 1, 2015. Sharfstein will also hold a faculty position in the school’s department of health policy and management.

Sharfstein has worked as a pediatrician, served as Baltimore’s health commissioner, was deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and chairs the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange in his current capacity.

“I look forward to joining a team of scholars that is making the world healthier, safer and more sustainable,” Sharfstein said in a statement. “I will stay involved in my city of Baltimore and my state of Maryland, as I engage with national and global health policy challenges and help train future public health leaders.”

With the Rockets, A Loss of Tourist Dollars

JERUSALEM — There was a time in the not so distant past when a visitor to Jerusalem’s high-end outdoor Mamilla Mall just outside the Old City’s Jaffa Gate would strain to hear Israel’s native language of Hebrew. Among the throngs of people perusing the jewelry stores, fashion houses and art galleries during the height of the summer tourist season would be visitors from North and South America, Europe and Asia.

But on Wednesday night, such tourists were nowhere to be found and the thoroughfare lined by Rolex, the Gap and upscale restaurants was reduced to the equivalent of a municipal mall found in a dust-strewn Israeli town like Beit She’an or Kiryat Malachi. There were still people, but they were locals.

And they weren’t spending.

“We’re hurting,” surmised Esther Berdugo, 60, standing outside the Israel Antiquities store she’s worked at for seven years, her back leaning against the ubiquitous Jerusalem stone that lines buildings new and ancient here in the Israeli capital. “We feel it. We feel it in the stores. There are no tourists, just Israelis.”

She pointed to the Rimon Café across the street to prove her point.

“People over there used to stand in line to wait for a table, it was so busy,” she said.

At 8:30 that night, just a handful of people patronized the restaurant. Most of them sipped coffee.

Over at the A & F Brands Factory Store, one of the first storefronts people encounter when they walk through the mall’s entrance facing the pricey David Citadel hotel, clerk Dan Levi, 23, walked among the retailer’s displays of button-down shirts and designer jeans. No one else was in the store.

“In July and August, we get 20,000 people per day walking through Mamilla,” he said. “Since the war began, it’s 6,000. And we depend on the business during the summer to carry us through the winter season.”

As Israel entered its 17th day of fighting its Operation Protective Edge against Hamas – the economic realities of decreased tourism notwithstanding — life continued more or less as before. Air raid sirens hadn’t been heard here for several days; cars and buses still moved along such central thoroughfares as King David and King George streets; pedestrians still clogged the small sidewalks along Agrippas Street leading to the famed Mahane Yehuda market.

But beneath the surface were the worries and concerns of shopkeepers like Berdugo, who realize that with each additional day of fighting in Gaza, Israel’s economy gets more and more isolated. When asked what she felt about the planeload of North American immigrants who arrived in the country just a day before, Berdugo’s face lit up. Like many Israelis, she spoke effusively of how important it was for foreign Jews to cast their lot with Israel.

“I am inspired,” she said. “The Jewish people are one. This is very important. But even more so, they’ve come because they truly love the land.”

But press further, and some locals can’t help but calling the new arrivals “crazy” for giving up easy lives in places like the United States for a life of hardship in a dangerous part of the world.

Yoel Cohen, former chairman of the School of Communication at Ariel University and author of God, Jews and the Media, explained the dichotomy in Israeli attitudes as part of how they view the Diaspora Jewish community in general.

“Overall, there’s not a great deal of interest among Israelis in the Diaspora, and that gets expression in the extent to which the Israeli media covers the Diaspora,” he said. “The interest is mainly unidirectional, such that Jewish newspaper editors are interested in what happens here … but the Israeli media fails to cover the Diaspora in an important way.”

The lack of interest only goes so far, however, and in times of existential crisis or when anti-Semitic attacks threaten Jews abroad, said Cohen, Israeli attitudes reflect more of an identification with a united global Jewish community.

That sense of shared identity goes both ways, said Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg. Wrapping up a four-week visit to the Jewish state, Blumenthal said that witnessing war from the perspective of a non-tourist — he took part in a rabbinical conference run by the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem — has strengthened his sense of Jewish identity.

“I’m still trying to process everything and decide what it’s all really about,” he said of the ongoing conflict. “But it’s deepened my sense of Jewish peoplehood.

“It’s striking that in my program of 27 rabbis, nobody went home [when the fighting started]. Everybody stayed,” he continued. “So on the one hand, yes, people decided this might not be the best place to take a vacation, but I’ve seen lots of people stay.”

And while he experienced firsthand what fleeing to a bomb shelter is like when air raid sirens sounded in Jerusalem weeks ago, a recent trip to the war-torn community of Sderot just a mile from the Gaza Strip afforded Blumenthal the “opportunity,” he said, of witnessing just how “normal” life in Israel is during a war.

“There’s a tremendous pride and strength [among Israelis], a sense that we’re not going anywhere,” the rabbi said of locals in Sderot. “And throughout my time in Israel, I feel incredibly protected, as long as you follow directives. It’s a strange feeling to hear a siren while on a bus. You pull over like every other car, you crouch down and you protect your head. Then the siren is over, you wait a couple of minutes and everything starts up again like nothing happened.”

FAA Lifts Ban on Israel Flights

delta1Late on Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted its ban on flights by American carriers in and out of Israel.

The FAA “worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” said a press release issued by the agency. “The FAA’s primary mission and interest are the protection of people traveling on U.S. airlines. The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions, as necessary.”

Earlier, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R), blasted the agency in a strongly worded press release and blamed the Obama administration, the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry for motivating Tuesday’s decision by the FAA to issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) halting flights by U.S. carriers in and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

The FAA’s decision came just as Kerry traveled to the region to try to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

“The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands,” Cruz’s statement read.

On Wednesday, the FAA extended its ban for an additional 24 hours, saying that it will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with the Israeli government to resolve concerns as quickly as possible, according to an agency press release.

In his statement, Cruz implied that the FAA, a regulatory agency, colluded with the administration to ground Israel bound flights for political purposes.

“Obviously, no one wants to place civilian travelers in harm’s way, and the recent downing of Malaysian Airways flight 17 by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by regional unrest,” wrote Cruz. “But security concerns in Israel are hardly breaking news, and given the exceptional challenge Israel faces, Ben Gurion has rightly earned the reputation as one of the safest airports in the world due to the aggressive security measures implemented by the Israeli government.

“Given that some 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel over the last six weeks, many of them at Tel Aviv, it seems curious to choose yesterday at noon to announce a flight ban, especially as the Obama Administration had to be aware of the punitive nature of this action,” Cruz stressed.

The State Department pushed back against Cruz’s assertions later in the day.

“It’s ridiculous and offensive, quite frankly,” said State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, during her daily press briefing. “The FAA takes its responsibility very seriously. I will speak for them in that case. They make these decisions based solely on the security and safety of American citizens. For anyone to suggest otherwise is just ridiculous.”

Not according to Abraham Sion, former president of the board of directors of Israel Tourist Industries and chair of the Center for Law and Mass Media at Israel’s Ariel University.

“What the U.S. is trying to do is teach Israel a lesson. [The ban] has nothing to do with safety, but is designed to convince Israel to reach a ceasefire,” said Sion.

When pressed for an explanation, he backtracked, but only slightly, saying “it was 80-90 percent a political decision. Public safety [was] a minor consideration.”

Yet, in an interview by with Israel’s Channel 2, Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz agreed that safety could not have been the motivation for the FAA’s decision.

“There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flights and give a prize to terror,” Katz said.

Israel is still open for business, wrote Haim Gutin, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism’s commissioner for North and South America, in a press release.

“Please know that life in Israel, and tourism to Israel, goes on and we welcome all visitors in peace. Some 75,000 tourists are in the country, and their travel arrangements are proceeding as planned. We foresee the current conflict ending soon – and that all will return speedily to normal.”

Shortly after the FAA issued its ban, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hopped an El Al flight to Israel to demonstrate his disapproval of the order and show solidarity.

“Ben Gurion Airport is the best protected airport in the world. It was an overreaction to halt U.S. flights here,” Bloomberg tweeted.

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The FAA’s flight prohibition applies only to U.S. carriers, yet a number of international airlines have followed suit, despite no such ban by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Other international airlines which have grounded flights to Israel include Scandinavian Airlines; Korean Air; Royal Jordanian; Alitalia; Swiss Air; Air Canada; and Poland’s state airline, LOT.

El Al is still continuing its flights to and from Israel and has announced no intention to do otherwise.

Additional reporting by Editor-in-Chief Joshua Runyan.

A Communal Responsibility

runyan_josh_otThree decades ago, faith communities across the Southwestern United States, seeing as their moral duty to protect the downtrodden and vulnerable from what they saw as an almost certain death sentence, decided to break the law and harbor illegal immigrants who had arrived from Central America.

Moved by a sense of humanity and an anti-establishment rebellious streak that flows through the blood of many whose cause is social justice, these brave souls, in some cases, forced social change by demanding that the United States take responsibility for the less fortunate drawn to its borders. Today, amid headlines proclaiming ever-increasing intolerance — including here in Maryland — toward children whose only crime is listening to the false promises of smugglers and cheating death in the hope of a better future, Jewish groups in Arizona and New Mexico are heeding the call and doing their part to help the unaccompanied minors who are once again flocking across the southern border.

Some of these good Samaritans are mindful of the failure of the United States to shelter Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, such as the turning back of the MS St. Louis and its 937 German Jewish refugees. And, as you’ll read in this week’s JT, groups such as the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona — like the churches and synagogues of 30 years ago — once again see it as their moral duty to help those suffering during a humanitarian crisis. As one organizer tells reporter Heather Norris in this week’s cover story, given their history of being “strangers in a strange land,” Jews should be at the forefront of the immigrant cause.

He has a point, and regardless of where you stand in the specific case of 57,000 Central Americans now awaiting their fate and what to do with them from an immigration policy point of view — 60 percent of those who took part in the JT’s online poll two weeks ago advocated deporting them quickly — you can’t help but feel that we all bear some responsibility to protect these children’s lives.

This sense of societal and communal responsibility is what is motivating Israeli citizens to send food and clothes to the tens of thousands of soldiers who are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect civilians on both sides from the actions of terrorists. It is the same sense of responsibility that likely motivated the Israeli army to open a field hospital for Gaza residents caught in the crossfire. And it is the same responsibility whose absence is manifested in the hateful demonstrations that recently set streets in Paris aflame.

Whether migrant child, Arab farmer or Israeli father, each and every human being deserves a life free from fear. That is ultimately the reason why Hamas must be vanquished and the hateful ideology it espouses will end in failure. Make no mistake, just like those who place water bottles in the Arizona desert, Israel now finds itself in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is characterizing as an existential war because of the children.


Boys’ Night Out

The grills were fired up and the strong smell of Scotch filled the air on a recent Sunday, as approximately 150 Jewish men spent the evening with the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning to “raise the steaks.” Literally.

Raise the Steaks II, held at Bruce Sholk and Beth Kaplan’s private Baltimore estate, celebrated Etz Chaim’s impact on the Baltimore Jewish community. The lavish evening affair featured a steak barbeque, live music, wine tasting, local microbrews and a Corvette car display. With corporate sponsors Quarry Wine and Spirits, Union Craft Brewing, DC Dental, Purgistics, Allstate, Northwest Savings Bank, Shimmy Braun and LA Properties, the one-night-only event was meant to bring out both current and future heavy-hitters.

“We planned the Etz Chaim Raise the Steaks event to engage the next generation of donors,” said Rabbi Yisroel Porter, director of Etz Chaim Owings Mills. “We wanted to throw a benefit that would attract a broad audience and find common ground across generations. I mean, steak, beer, wine — can’t go wrong with that recipe, right?”

With a mission to attract Jewish students from every walk of life, Etz Chaim works to cultivate Jewish learning and identity in a non-threatening atmosphere. It offers guest speakers, Shabbat dinners, Israel tours and community-based programs.

“We are a people with a mission,” said its executive director, Rabbi Nitzan Bergman. “We have a purpose, a homeland and, ultimately, a Jewish identity. I love the members of the Etz Chaim community, and I want to continue doing more good work.”

The July 13 affair kicked off with a Scotch and bourbon tasting for donors who had contributed at least $360 to the organization. Other guests arrived for the dinner that followed. Italian glassblower Gianni Toso was among those who joined the festivities.

“When I moved to Baltimore, I wanted to find a Jewish community,” said Toso. “I started going to Beth Tfiloh, and soon after, I met Rabbi Porter and Rabbi Bergman. I think the two have done a wonderful job, and I have given them artwork from my studio. I’m thrilled to be a part of this special group.”

Between the main course and dessert, a series of Etz Chaim speakers provided insights on the organization as a whole. Following opening remarks from Porter and a gift presentation for hosts Sholk and Kaplan, the microphone was handed to a number of Etz Chaim enthusiasts who discussed their relationship with the organization. Marcus Rothberg, 27, a former skydiving instructor with an engineering degree, emphasized how his relationship with Etz Chaim led him to a life-altering decision.

“Etz Chaim means the tree of life,” he said. “I am looking at the roots of this organization right now. I always dreamed of going to Israel. Etz Chaim provided me with the golden ticket to go. I have now decided to make aliyah and become a tour guide in Israel. Etz Chaim has changed the entire course of my life.”

After Rothberg’s testimonial, several tables of men broke out in song and dance. As the dessert buffet opened, raffle winners claimed prizes including a Baltimore tour for two on a private plane, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Covenant Winery, two tickets to an Orioles game, a 15-year old bottle of Tomatin Scotch, two round-trip tickets to Atlantic City or New York, free dry cleaning and one airplane ticket to anywhere in the United States.

“The Raise the Steaks event, like last year, came out great,” proclaimed Porter. “Events like these showcase the past, present and future of our organization. Everyone had a wonderful time, and I believe Etz Chaim is growing stronger and stronger every day.”

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

Words of Wisdom

South African author Nadine Gordimer’s novels and short stories were a lifelong attack on apartheid. (Bengt Oberger/Wikimedia Commons

South African author Nadine Gordimer’s novels and short stories were a lifelong attack on apartheid.
(Bengt Oberger/Wikimedia Commons

South African novelist Nadine Gordimer died July 13, in Johannesburg at the age of 90, Reuters reported. The author of more than 30 books, Gordimer was one of the literary world’s most influential voices against apartheid, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991 for her novels and short stories that echoed life and emotion in a society stained by decades of white-minority rule.

According to The New York Times, Gordimer didn’t choose the subject of apartheid as a young writer, but when Afrikaner nationalists rose to power in 1948, she could no longer ignore the subject; the apartheid system enveloped her. Taking on the subject, she explored all aspects of South African life and society; critics deemed her work a social history told through portraits of her South African characters, many of whom were black.

Gordimer began writing at an early age, publishing her first story, “Come Again Tomorrow,” in a Johannesburg magazine when she was 15. Her book of short stories, “Face to Face,” was published in 1949 and her first novel, “The Lying Days,” in 1953. Between 1948 and 1994, a number of Gordimer’s books were banned in South Africa, including her second novel, 1958’s “A World of Strangers.” The novel centers on a young British man who arrives in South Africa to discover two social factions he cannot unite — the black townships, where one group of his friends lives, and a world of white privilege, where he has friends as well.

Also banned was “The Late Bourgeois World” (1966), a story that follows a woman faced with a difficult decision after her ex-husband, an anti-apartheid resistance traitor, commits suicide. “Burger’s Daughter,” widely considered one of her most well-known novels, was published in 1979. The story of a child’s journey after her revolutionary father becomes a martyr to the cause was banned in the country for only a few months, as Gordimer had by then become an internationally known author. “July’s People” (1981) envisioned a violent South African revolution, where black people hunt and murder the white minority, while a black servant protects his white employers by bringing them to the black township of Soweto. Her last novel, “No Time Like the Present” (2012) focused on veterans of the battle against apartheid, as they face issues in modern South Africa.

Gordimer was born in Springs, South Africa, to Jewish immigrant parents in 1923. Her father, Isidore Gordimer, was a Lithuanian watchmaker, and her mother, Nancy, moved to the country from Britain. Gordimer told The Paris Review in 1983 that they had an unhappy marriage, which led to her mother’s possessiveness and controlling demeanor.

Gordimer married twice, wedding dentist Gerald Gavron in 1949. They had a daughter, Oriane, and their marriage ended in divorce in 1952. She then married Reinhold Cassirer, an art dealer who had fled Nazi Germany, with whom she had a son, Hugo. Cassirer died in 2001.

Gordimer joined the African National Congress when it was still an illegal organization in South Africa during apartheid. As an ANC leader, she fought for the release of Nelson Mandela, whose famous 1962 trial speech, “I Am Prepared To Die,” she edited. “Our country has lost an unmatched literary giant whose life’s work was our mirror and an unending quest for humanity,” the ANC said in a statement.

Gordimer continued to voice her opinions on apartheid and stand for causes in the 21st century. She spoke with Washington Jewish Week editor Geoffrey W. Melada in 2002 for an interview published in the Jewish Exponent on whether Israel was rightly condemned as an apartheid state — a charge that still surfaces today.

“The whole thing is such a tragedy. But what is at issue is territory,” she said. “The conflict is not based on racism. If the Palestinians were some other white race, there would be the same conflict between them.”

Gordimer is survived by her two children. Her family announced that a private memorial service would be held at a later date.


JCC Employee Charged

   Charles David Beaver is charged with sexual solicitation of a minor. (Provided)

Charles David Beaver is charged with sexual solicitation of a minor. (Provided)

A JCC Aquatic Center employee has been charged with sexual solicitation of a minor after telling an undercover detective posing as a juvenile that he wanted to engage in sexual activity with two teenage boys, according to Baltimore County Police.

Charles David Beaver, 58, of the 3000 block of Main Street in Manchester, was held at the Baltimore County Detention Center and released on $100,000 bail.

Barak Hermann, president of the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Will Minkin, chairman of the board of the JCC, sent an email to members and guests explaining the incident and saying they are “deeply disturbed and concerned.”

“Obviously we’re very disappointed and troubled by the situation,” Hermann said. “We want to make sure that all of our professional staff and everyone who works at the JCC puts the best intentions of children, individuals and families first.”

The letter he and Minkin wrote said that all prospective JCC employees have a rigorous background investigation that includes fingerprinting and a search of the Criminal Justice Information System.

“He had a completely 100 percent clean record,” Hermann said. “Obviously, we hire people to work with children, parents and families, and we do a very rigorous check.”

Beaver has been terminated from the JCC effective immediately, the letter said.

Hermann said Beaver was a member of the aquatic staff who taught American Red Cross certification classes, lifeguarded and gave swim lessons at both the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC and the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. Although police reported that Beaver told detectives he was in charge of the summer camp pre-K through third grade, Hermann said that is not true and Beaver had no management responsibilities.

On July 15, police got a tip that Beaver wanted to pay for sex with a 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy, the news release said. A detective posing as a pimp began online communication with Beaver and later posed as a 15-year-old boy. A meeting with the boys was scheduled at a Baltimore County hotel room. When Beaver arrived, an undercover investigator answered the door and took him into custody.

Detectives also said that Beaver is a retired Carroll County school teacher who had been a soccer coach.

The investigation was conducted by Baltimore County detectives and members of the Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes Baltimore County Police, the FBI and other local jurisdictions.

Detectives are not sure if Beaver actually abused anyone but are asking anyone with information to contact police at 410-307-2020.

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.

Ground Incursion Hits Home

Jordan Low, a 2013 Beth Tfiloh graduate, was hospitalized for smoke  inhalation after helping his unit escape a burning building in Gaza.

Jordan Low, a 2013 Beth Tfiloh graduate, was hospitalized for smoke inhalation after helping his unit escape a burning building in Gaza.

The human cost of Israel’s ground incursion in the Gaza Strip hit close to home in the United States this week, with a Beth Tfiloh graduate hospitalized and Jewish communities in Los Angeles and South Texas losing members in the fighting.

Among the wounded was Baltimore native Jordan Low, a 2013 graduate of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, who was hospitalized for smoke inhalation after helping his company escape from a burning building.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, 25 soldiers have been killed since July 17 as of publication. On Monday morning, five IDF soldiers were in serious or critical condition, 15 were in stable condition, and 40 were seeking treatment for injuries, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The Palestinian death toll had reached 565 by press time Monday since the launch of Operation Protective Edge, according to Gaza health officials.

In Baltimore, the Beth Tfiloh community has rallied behind Low with phone calls, prayers and volunteers to visit him, according to Zipora Schorr, the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s director of education.

“He was quite the hero according to his dad,” Schorr said. “Until everyone escaped from this burning building that was hit by Hamas, he held the ladder until every single guy got out safely, which is why he was so affected by the fumes.”

Jeffrey Low, Jordan’s father, was flying out to see Jordan with his younger son, Josh, 15, on Monday evening. Low spoke to his son’s doctor Monday morning, who said his blood pressure and other health indicators were good.

Jordan Low’s company, Golani Brigade’s Unit 51, was searching for arms on the second story of a Hamas building in Northern Gaza when Hamas fired two rockets at the building and it burst into flames, Low said. All 15 soldiers, four of whom received serious injuries, were airlifted to a Tel Aviv hospital, he said.

“Jordan going into the IDF … I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Low said. “He’s in Israel and doesn’t have to be there. Being a chayal boded [lone soldier] is highly coveted, and I think those things show the kind of young man Jordan is.”

Two American soldiers and members of the Golani Brigade, Max Steinberg, 24, of Beersheba and Los Angeles, and Sean Carmeli, 21, of Raanana and South Padre Island, Texas, were killed Sunday. They were among 13 Israeli soldiers killed in heavy fighting in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood.

Israel’s stated objectives in the ground invasion are to bring a sustained cessation to missile fire from Gaza and to root out the infrastructure that Hamas has used to build up its weapons cache.

“Operation Protective Edge will continue until it reaches its goal,” read a July 17 statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that announced the invasion, “restoring quiet to Israel’s citizens for a prolonged period, while inflicting a significant blow to the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.”

The Israeli ground invasion of Gaza — its first since 2009 — aims to destroy Hamas’ underground weapons stores and its network of tunnels in Gaza, which it uses to transport arms and personnel. The invasion started after a week and a half of Hamas missiles and Israeli airstrikes, along with failed efforts to reach a cease-fire.

President Obama told Secretary of State John Kerry to push for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in the Gaza Strip.

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas,” Obama said Monday in a brief news appearance as Kerry headed to Egypt to attempt to broker a cease-fire.

“And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama said he wanted a return to the truce with Hamas brokered in November 2012, but Hamas has rejected such a return. Hamas has added demands including internationally monitored border crossings, prisoner releases and Israel staying out of Hamas-Palestinian Authority unity talks.

On Monday, Israeli troops killed 10 terrorists who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from northern Gaza.

The terrorists emerged from the tunnel Monday morning into Southern Israel between two kibbutzes near the border with Gaza, the IDF reported. The IDF said its radar captured the infiltration.

One cell of infiltrators was struck by Israeli airstrikes, the IDF said, and a second cell was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops.

Residents of the two kibbutzes, Erez and Nir Am, and some surrounding southern Israeli towns were ordered to remain in their homes with the doors locked for several hours on Monday morning as the IDF searched for more possible infiltrators.

JTA contributed to this report.