Baltimore Stands with Israel


Rabbi Moshe Hauer

The events unfolding in Israel are geographically far from Maryland, but Jewish Baltimore will show

its solidarity and support for the Jewish state through prayer, gatherings and messages sent directly to the soldiers taking part in Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli embassy representatives, community leaders and politicians will be on hand Monday, July 21 at 7 p.m. for a Gathering of Solidarity to be held at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. The event has been organized to create an opportunity for the Baltimore community to demonstrate its support for Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.

The program will feature guest speakers, including Oren Marmorstein, counselor for public affairs and national coordinator of academic affairs at the Israeli Embassy, and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and will also include the recitation of tehillim with
of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation. In addition, Amian Kelemer, whose daughter recently completed service with the Israel Defense Forces, will speak from her perspective as the parent of an Israeli soldier.

The Gathering of Solidarity is sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and co-sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Israel Coalition. For additional information, call the Baltimore Jewish Council at 410-542-4850 or go to its website at

Hauer has also put a call out to all Jewish camp directors asking that campers help design small notes or cards that will be included in care packages to be delivered to soldiers. He extended his request to anybody in the community who would like to create and send a note of solidarity to Israeli troops.

Hauer will be traveling to Israel next week and asks that the cards and letters be sent or dropped off by Monday at 5 p.m. to the office of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion at 6602 Park Heights Ave.

Agudath Israel of America is asking that all Jews pray for the safety of the Israeli soldiers and the citizenry of Israel, and “to undertake meaningful acts of kindness, charity, Torah-study and special observances to help merit Divine protection of our brothers and sisters in [Israel], on the front lines and everywhere else.”

Recently reopened is the Shmira Project, an organization that enables people to “adopt” one or more soldiers by doing a specific mitzvah in their honor and praying for their protection. Shmira means “guarding” or “protecting” in Hebrew.

“Any mitzvah that you do on behalf of a soldier truly makes a difference, to the soldier and to Jewish unity,” states the Center for Jewish Education’s website. “Write your soldier’s name out and post it where you’ll see it … near the Shabbat candles, on the refrigerator, in your car, in your phone. Then when you are going to do something positive in the world, stop and think of your soldier and include him or her in your mitzvah.”

For more information about the Shmira Project, go to or text 240-393-4836.

Senators Pledge Support for Israel In Wake of Ground Operation

050214_israel-dayHours after the Israel Defense Forces began their ground operation in the Gaza Strip on July 17, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke on the Senate floor to express their support of Israel and its operation, while denouncing the Palestinian Authority’s unity government and the moral equivalency drawn by those critical of Israel’s actions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The passing of the resolution — and the senators’ remarks — came only hours after the Israeli prime minister gave the go-ahead to send ground troops into Gaza after a 10-day air operation failed to diminish the Hamas rocket barrage. Another stated objective, according to a press release from the prime minister’s office, is to destroy smuggling tunnels, one of which was used earlier in the day by 13 Hamas militants to enter Israel.

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

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

Comfortable with Questioning

Jeffrey Kahn, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, works to create policy that helps people navigate through difficult decisions in the evolving medical and public health fields. (Melissa Gerr)

Jeffrey Kahn, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, works to create policy that helps people navigate through difficult decisions in the evolving medical and public health fields. (Melissa Gerr)

As a pre-med student, an aversion to hospitals turned out to be one of the best things for Jeffrey Kahn’s career.

During his undergraduate work in medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kahn was advised to gain hospital experience, so he took a job drawing blood from pre-operative patients.

“I really hated going into people’s hospital rooms and smelling the sickness and touching people who were ill,” he recalled. But Kahn thought he could get beyond those feelings because he remained passionate and committed to study in the field of medicine.

Then he began a required course called Medicine, Law and Society that turned out to be a divining rod for him.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is all the interesting stuff, but it doesn’t smell bad, and there’s no blood,’” he said. An adviser explained it was bioethics he was interested in and directed Kahn to the only place in the country with an academic focus on bioethics at the time, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Interdisciplinary in nature, bioethics as an academic field has only been around since the 1970s. It encompasses medical ethics but also includes questions surrounding biomedical research and the application of leading medical or other biological technologies. The field has also evolved to include public health concerns such as global justice in relation to food availability and fair access to medical treatments.

Kahn entered the Kennedy Institute after obtaining his undergraduate degree in microbiology at UCLA. It was necessary to study bioethics within another context, and in this case it was through the philosophy department. With this new direction Kahn remembered that his life was slightly upended, but he was excited about it.

“A nice Jewish boy from the San Fernando Valley,” Kahn said, laughing, “went to a Jesuit institution, switched from hard science to philosophy and relocated from the West Coast to East Coast.

“Everything just got turned upside down,” he added, “but it was new and fresh and different in a great way.”

Now Kahn holds a Ph.D. in philosophy/bioethics from the Kennedy Institute and a M.P.H. in health policy from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Kahn has held faculty positions at the Department of Medical Humanities at East Carolina University School of Medicine; the Center for the Study of Medical Bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin; the Department of Medicine and also the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota; the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University; and since 2011, Kahn is the Robert Henry Levi and Ryda Hecht Levi professor of bioethics and public policy and the deputy director for policy and administration at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Kahn, and his more than 30 colleagues, address a wide range of topics such as “bedside” bioethics issues, where they help health care teams, families and patients understand options and make decisions about sustaining or withholding treatment or even navigating access to expensive therapies; and they are also involved in broader-reaching ethics such as global food-access policies and ethics of working with human and animal research subjects. The challenges evolve as quickly as the medical field evolves, so currently the ethical questions involving synthetic biology are also on their docket.

During his time at the University of Minnesota, Kahn was plunged into a highly publicized case. Lisa and Jack Nash gave birth in 1994 to a baby girl, Molly, with Fanconi anemia, a genetic disease that can have many ill effects and at its worst can result in leukemia by age 6 or 7. Molly’s chances of survival required either a bone marrow donor or an umbilical cord blood donor. The couple became pregnant again (via in vitro fertilization) and used embryonic testing to ensure choosing an embryo that didn’t have same disease and was a genetic match to the first child in order to be a donor.

Kahn was made aware of the situation when it was well underway, and he said it raised a lot of ethical questions such as, did they create a child to save their daughter? The couple had planned to have more children and chose to use genetic testing to ensure the next child did not carry the same disease and at the same time they could possibly save their first child’s life. But if the cord blood donation didn’t work for Molly, which would be confirmed within the first three months, then it would be necessary to put the infant under anesthesia and remove bone marrow from its hip with a very large needle.

“The parents said absolutely we would do that,” recalled Kahn.

Empowering Evening


Dr. Rachel Brem (Provided)

A torrential downpour on July 8 did not discourage dozens of women from turning out for Dessert and Brem, an event held at Congregation Ohr Simcha that was billed as an evening of education and empowerment for women.

Chaired by Danielle Storch and Esther Sara Weiner and sponsored by the Chesed Fund with co-sponsors the Mikvah of Baltimore, the Jewish Caring Network, Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Bnos Yisroel of Baltimore and Bikur Cholim of Baltimore, the program also served as a fundraiser for the Brem Foundation to defeat breast cancer.

The story of the Brem Foundation’s founding dates to 2004. During a routine medical appointment, Dr. Rachel Brem, a radiologist and breast cancer researcher who was formerly director of imaging at Johns Hopkins Medicine and is now director of the Breast Imaging and Interventional Center at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., asked longtime patient Sue Apple for advice.

“I have a problem,” Apple recalled Brem telling her.

Brem explained that she needed to purchase a new piece of medical equipment that would help her identify breast cancers not easily found by other technologies. Apple, who is passionate about the cause and Brem’s commitment, got to work. Before long, she had managed to raise the $40,000 needed to buy the machine and had also succeeded in getting its cost reduced by half.

But Apple and Brem didn’t stop there. Once the latest technology was available, they were faced with an unfortunate reality. Many of the women who could benefit from the technology were unable to access it because of financial constraints.

In 2005, they started the Brem Foundation, a volunteer-run nonprofit organization. The foundation ensures that Washington-area women who are uninsured or underinsured are able to receive diagnostic services and also funds the Mammovan — a mobile mammography unit from GW that provides free mammograms to women who meet the financial guidelines. In addition, the Brem Foundation trains breast radiologists in the most advanced radiology treatments and in Brem’s patient-centered style of medical care through its Hayes-Jennings Fellowships.

The Brem Foundation also helps to support physicians’ research into advanced technologies for accurate diagnosis of breast cancer, including screening for high-risk patients using automated whole-breast ultrasound for women with dense breast tissue and molecular imaging to detect breast cancers that might not otherwise be identified.

Storch said she was inspired to bring Brem to Baltimore after hearing from two friends who had found lumps in their breasts.

“I had to do something to help,” she said.

“Cancer Detective” Dr. Rachel Brem from brem foundation on Vimeo.

Brem, a Baltimore native, was enthusiastic about coming to her hometown to share her expertise. In her presentation, Brem, a breast cancer survivor and daughter of a breast cancer survivor, stressed that women must be their own advocates. She also discredited recent reports that disputed the value of mammograms.

“Mammograms save lives,” she told the audience repeatedly. “They reduce deaths from breast cancer by 15 to 33 percent. After 40, get your mammogram every year.”

And while she acknowleged that Ashkenazi Jewish women are more likely than others to carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, mutations that increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by 50 to 85 percent, she also cautioned that 75 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease. Brem advised women to make sure that the person who reads their mammograms is highly experienced.

“Not all mammogram readings are the same. There is research showing that people who do something more often do it better,” she said. “You can ask who is reading your mammogram and demand that it be the most experienced person on staff.”

Brem said that 40 percent of women have dense breasts, which makes breast cancer more likely and also more difficult to detect. Mammograms, she noted, are the only way to find out if one has dense breasts.

“Maryland is one of 18 states that requires radiologists to inform women if a mammogram shows dense breasts,” she said.

She urged women with dense breasts to seek additional screenings such as 3D ultrasounds or breast MRIs.

“If you need a biopsy and your doctor’s office says they can’t do it for two weeks, you should walk out,” she advised. “We don’t believe in sleepless nights. At GW, we do the vast number of biopsies the same day as an abnormality is found. … Never go to surgery for a diagnosis. It should be a minimally invasive needle biopsy. It’s better and faster than surgery.”

Storch plans to follow up the July 8 event with a larger program this fall.

For more information, visit

To The Rescue

071814_chocolateThose who enjoy kosher baking can breathe a collective sigh of relief: There’s a new pareve chocolate chip in town.

The spring of 2012 was a tough one for those who appreciate a good, chocolaty homemade dessert after a meat meal. Food retailer Trader Joe’s brutal announcement that May — that its popular pareve chocolate chips would thereafter be certified kosher/dairy — sent local bakers into a frenzy.

Because the bags sold by Shop Rite are also pareve, things in Baltimore weren’t as bad as in Pittsburgh, where people were buying up the chocolate morsels by the case from two Trader Joe’s locations and freezing them for an anticipated string of proverbial rainy days. But the work of Pittsburgher Chana Shusterman has nevertheless benefited kosher bakers here.

Back in 2012, Shusterman ordered four cases of the Trader Joe’s chocolate chips and shared them with about 10 friends. At the time, she was optimistic that consumer pressure on the chain would convince the retailer to make whatever changes were necessary for its venerated brand of chocolate chips to qualify again for the kosher/pareve certification.

But when that didn’t happen, Shusterman took matters into her own hands.

Finding no reasonably priced, high-quality vegan and pareve chocolate chips in the local market, the high school teacher and software business owner set out on a mission to fix the problem.

“During that first year, I really thought there would be availability somewhere,” Shusterman said. “But when there wasn’t, I did some investigating. I looked into who were the top chocolate manufacturers, and I was able to taste a few brands.”

She was looking for a dairy-free, allergen-free chocolate, with no fillers and a high percentage of cocoa.

Once she found the right chocolate, she got to work researching bagging and printing companies and kosher certification entities.

The result: California Gourmet-brand vegan, gluten-free chocolate chips with a 45 percent cocoa content and certified kosher/pareve by the OK. A 10-ounce bag goes for $2.89.

The California Gourmet chocolate chips are available at two-dozen stores in six states, including Seven Mile Market and Pomegranate in Brooklyn, N.Y., and can be ordered online at

“The taste is excellent,” Shusterman said. “They are very smooth, and good for melting.”

Lila Weiss, owner of Murray Avenue Kosher in Shusterman’s home town, is happy to be carrying the new product, she said.

“You know how some chocolate chips taste waxy?” Weiss said. “These are chocolaty.”

The product, which has been on her shelves for about four weeks, is “moving nicely,” Weiss said, adding that the other brands of chocolate chips she
carries are “a little more expensive.”

While the Shop Rite brand of pareve chocolate chips is available at Seven Mile — and is somewhat less expensive than Shusterman’s product — California Gourmet seems to be attracting buyers who have been missing the Trader Joe’s brand, said Moshe Boehm, the general manager of the store.

“Trader Joe’s had a following,” Boehm said. “There are many, many other chocolate chips out there. But for those people who liked the Trader Joe’s chocolate chips this is a big deal. I’ve heard from a few people that this replaces Trader Joe’s. These are definitely serving a need. They are definitely something that people are interested in.”

For Rivky Bukiet of Baltimore, known, she said, for her homemade chocolate chip cookies, California Gourmet chocolate chips have been just what she had been looking for since the Trader Joe’s product went dairy.

“I couldn’t find a substitute, something of good quality and pareve,” she said.

When she got her first taste of California Gourmet chocolate chips at her sister’s house in New York, “she couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Thrilled to discover they were being sold in Baltimore, she is now using them in all her baking, from pumpkin muffins to peanut butter balls to her famous chocolate chips cookies.

“I’m really excited to share this with all my friends,” she said. “I know when people taste this, they’ll want more.”

Toby Tabachnick is senior writer at The Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Custody of Five Girls Awarded to Father in Israel

Five Israeli girls who have been living off and on in Maryland since 2010 will return to Israel and live with their father, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled on July 1.

Judge Yvette M. Bryant awarded Yoel Weiss sole legal and primary physical custody of the five girls, who are between the ages of 5 and 14.

Their mother, Yocheved Weiss, who lives in Baltimore, will have telephone and video chat visitation with the three younger children no less than twice weekly. She was not granted physical access to the children.

Divorce cases are pending in Baltimore and Jerusalem. Yocheved Weiss filed an appeal to the custody decision on July 9. A visitation hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19 in Baltimore.

The case, originally filed by Yocheved Weiss in November 2012, ultimately hinged on the court’s judgment that Yoel Weiss appeared to be a more nurturing caretaker to the children, several of whom testified that they wanted to return to Israel and not live with their mother.

Attorneys representing both parties could not be reached for comment about the decision.

The family first came to Baltimore, moving from Ramat Beit Shemesh in the foothills of Jerusalem, in the summer of 2010 to help out a member of Yocheved Weiss’ family. Joel Zuckerman, an attorney for Yoel Weiss, said in a previous interview that he thinks the couple was having problems when they first came to the United States. The father, the only member of the family without dual citizenship, arrived with a six-month tourist visa, which was not extended. His wife would not help him apply for a green card, Jerusalem court documents show.

Bryant wrote in her decision that Yocheved Weiss was dishonest about the move to Maryland and did not intend to return to Israel.

The couple separated in August 2011, at which point Yocheved Weiss was granted a restraining order and temporary custody. In October 2012, Yoel Weiss, who was living illegally in the U.S., flew back to Israel with the three oldest daughters without telling his estranged wife.

Yocheved Weiss “was dishonest regarding her plans (essentially lying to the entire family) when she moved the entire family from Israel, and [Yoel Weiss] was sneaky with his plans to return the children to Israel,” the judge found. “The court does not find that [Yoel Weiss] intended to deprive [Yocheved Weiss] of access to the children since she has dual citizenship and has the ability to return to Israel. The court finds the parties’ respective acts of treachery, as applied to this custody matter, is a draw.”

Yoel Weiss had previously been granted temporary custody by a regional rabbinical court in Jerusalem, but the three girls were later sent back to America in April 2013 after the Baltimore City Circuit Court awarded Yocheved Weiss temporary custody and ordered their return.

According to Bryant’s order, the girls were to be permitted to return to Israel after they met with two court agencies last week. After the custody ruling and prior to their return, they stayed with a family friend in Pikesville, as arranged by their father.

The court also ordered all five girls, Yoel and Yocheved Weiss undergo psychological evaluations in order to make visitation recommendations. The two oldest daughters refused to have contact with their mother and were not included in her visitation rights.

During the custody hearing, which took place over the course of five days in April and May, the court heard testimony from various members of the Jewish communities in Baltimore and Israel as well as several of the girls, who painted a picture of Yocheved Weiss as a mentally and physically abusive mother who yelled at and threatened her children and was disruptive in several school environments. During the case, the court issued an order prohibiting Yocheved Weiss from discussing the case with her children or showing any disappointment with her children’s testimony.

Jamie Metzler, a clinical social worker who spoke with the two oldest daughters, said they reported to him that Yocheved Weiss spoke to them angrily and humiliated them and that it had been going on for at least two years.

Sharon Dienstock, a teacher and adviser from the Bais Yaakov School for Girls, testified about a time that Yocheved Weiss was “loud and angry” and came backstage before a performance on Jan. 11, 2014, threatening to ground her oldest daughter if she didn’t pose for a picture with her mother. The Pikesville woman who the girls were staying with prior to their return to Israel testified that she was once threatened with a restraining ordered by Yocheved Weiss for saying hello to the girls at a public library.

Sara Itzkowitz, founding principal at the Bnos Yisroel School of Baltimore, testified that Yocheved Weiss came to the building with her second youngest daughter and caused a scene, telling her daughter that Itzkowitz was the person preventing her from going to school and wearing a uniform like her friends. She had to be escorted out by a rabbi.

A cousin who the two oldest girls went to live with in May 2013 said the children, who had not re-enrolled in fall 2012, did not attend school until around Thanksgiving that year.

Naomi Kornfeld of Ramat Beit Shemesh said that when Yoel Weiss returned to Israel with three of the girls, they were welcomed back into the community and quickly reintegrated. The girls were relaxed and happy and traveled with their father, she said.

Court documents noted that not once did Yocheved Weiss mention that she loves her children or that she wanted to help them mature. The court had trouble finding her credible since her testimony differed from others and sometimes contradicted her own.

“This court finds that [Yoel Weiss’] home is the home that offers the greatest assurance that each day will afford the same level of nurture, security, consistency, steadfastness with the children’s practice of the family’s faith, extracurricular opportunities, exposure to extended family members whom they enjoy, adventure and a mental and physical abuse-free environment,” Bryant wrote.

For more background on this case, read “Fate of Five Girls Hangs on Circuit Court Case,” May 16.

The Meaning Behind the Fast

Attendees at Iftar, a community break-fast meal at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, hosted by the Greater Baltimore Muslim Council. The council offers dinner each night during the 30 days of Ramadan. (Photo Melissa Gerr)

Attendees at Iftar, a community break-fast meal at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, hosted by the Greater Baltimore Muslim Council. The council offers dinner each night during the 30 days of Ramadan. (Photo Melissa Gerr)

Now in its 10th year, the Greater Baltimore Muslim Council hosted guests from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. communities for a special Iftar dinner, the traditional meal breaking the fast that occurs daily during the month of Ramadan. About 200 people from within and beyond the Islamic community attended the July 10 event at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, including clergy who were invited to speak about the significance of fasting in their respective religions.

“Calling a fast day in a time of crisis is a way to relieve the crisis,” Rabbi Charles Feinberg of Adas Israel Congregation in D.C. said in offering the Jewish view, noting that fasts have been traditional responses to plagues and droughts for thousands of years. The practice of refraining from food and drink has also been used to commemorate catastrophe such as the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and then by the Romans, he pointed out.

Finally, explained Feinberg, the holiest day of Yom Kippur offers a chance to practice self-denial for more than 24 hours as a sign of repentance, presenting “a day in which [Jews] try to live totally on a spiritual plane.”

The Islamic Society’s great hall was partitioned by a 7-foot high white cloth into men’s and women’s sides. GBMC director Raees Kahn welcomed the crowd and introduced Muhammad Jameel, president-elect of the Islamic Society of Baltimore. Jameel explained that fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, acknowledging that fasting began with Abraham, first mentioned in the Book of Zechariah.

Jameel said that during Ramadan, fasting is observed because a person must be as pure as possible in every sense.

“One must restrain from evil speech and hearing evil things,” he said, adding that Islam requires more charity during the month.

“God says, ‘The one who is closest to a fellow man is the one who is closest to me,’” explained Jameel. “You must be more sympathetic, more considerate” during Ramadan.

On the women’s side of the divide, Krayna Feinberg joined Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Amy Bram, director of Camp Milldale, in a conversation with Islamic Society members on the similarities and differencesbetween Judaism and Islam.

Another of the interfaith speakers, Rev. Fred Weimert, president of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, acknowledged that fasting is not a significant tenet or a sacrament in Christianity. But he said that the Lenten practice prior to Easter of denying something essential for 40 days could be seen as a type of fasting.

“Fasting is a hungering for the homesickness of God,” said Weimert.

The Islamic Society hosts a break-fast meal for each of the 30 days of Ramadan, with between 200 to 300 people attending during the week, said Mahmood Sajjad, manager of the center’s Café Al-Rahmah. Attendance can grow to 500 people on the weekends.

The light meal began with juice, a fresh date, watermelon and pukora, a fried delicacy of potato and spinach. After a brief prayer service, a main meal consisted of Chinese noodles, Chinese rice, a chicken dish and pita bread. There is not a traditional Iftar menu, because Muslims descend from so many countries, explained Nasrim Rahman, who runs the Islamic Society’s Sunday school and a homeless shelter for women and children.

“Sharing is the main thing,” said Fauzia Tariq, a member of the Islamic Society for decades, who attended with her three children. “The stronger your faith, the easier it is for you,” she said of the fast.

A Shared Sense of Survival

runyan_josh_otYou don’t need to live in Israel to be the target of anti-Jewish hatred. You could be attending a rally in Los Angeles or praying in a Paris synagogue.

Of course, you wouldn’t know this solely by reading the region’s daily newspapers. Both The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post in fact contained not a single mention Monday or Tuesday of the hateful attacks against Jews in Europe or here in the United States. Amid their significant coverage of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to stop more than a week of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, neither paper managed to note that two Parisian synagogues had come under attack July 13.

An Associated Press report, however, managed to make it to The Post’s website.

“Pro-Palestinian protesters tried to force their way into a Paris synagogue Sunday with bats and chairs, then fought with security officers who blocked their way,” said the report, noting that “some 150 people were inside for a ceremony honoring three Israeli teens recently killed.”

In Los Angeles, according to a report in Haaretz, hundreds of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clashed near the campus of UCLA. The scuffle got so heated that a federal officer fired his gun.

No one was hurt in the L.A. incident, and those inside the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in Paris managed to eventually get out, but these instances of violence have so concerned the Anti-Defamation League that the organization, which counted more than 50 anti-Israel rallies to take place stateside since the beginning of last week, issued a security advisory to Jewish institutions.

“The events taking place in Israel and the Gaza Strip have resulted in tense atmospheres at anti-Israel rallies in Europe and across the United States,” ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement. “While most of the demonstrations in the U.S. have been peaceful, we are encouraging Jewish institutions, organizations and synagogues to have a heightened sense of awareness, particularly in light of what is happening overseas.”

It’s important to remember that the events abroad are affecting communities here. And the death of the first Israeli civilian to Hamas rocket fire in the current conflict — the man reportedly suffered a direct hit Tuesday near the Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel as he was passing out food to Israeli soldiers — demonstrates, as if any demonstration were necessary, that it’s not just Palestinians who are suffering.

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, many Baltimoreans have responded to the events of the past few weeks with a renewed sense of Jewish identification. Many teens and young adults continued their summer trips to Israel and defiantly decided to stay, despite the sirens, the rocket attacks and the bomb shelters. Others on this side of the world are donating their hard-earned money to any of several funds established by Jewish organizations to help Israeli civilians and the Israeli military.

It’s dangerous to view the world through an “us vs. them” prism, but sometimes it’s helpful to realize that at the end of the day, a shared sense of Jewish peoplehood is what will enable not only Israel, but all of the Jewish communities throughout the world to survive.


JCC Employee Charged with Solicitation of a Minor


A JCC aquatics 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 a 15-year-old boy, according to Baltimore County Police.

Charles David Beaver, 58, of the 3000 block of Main Street in Manchester, is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center 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 in an interview. “We want to make sure that all of our professional staff and everyone that 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 rigorous background investigation that includes fingerprinting and 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 aquatics 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 at the room, an undercover investigator answered the door and took him into custody.

Detectives also discovered 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.

National Synagogue Rabbi to Address Attacked Paris Synagogue

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Shalom-The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., heads to Paris this weekend to deliver the Shabbat morning dvar Torah at the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue, which was attacked by pro-Palestinian protesters on Sunday.

“When a synagogue is attacked anywhere in the world, it’s not just an attack on that synagogue, it’s an attack on every synagogue,” Herzfeld said.

When he hears of attacks on Jewish places of worship, he always tries to reach out to them, he said. In this case, he will get a chance to visit and carry a message to the congregants.

According to reports, about 100 young protesters stormed the Abravanel synagogue July 13, throwing rocks and other objects and trapping worshippers inside. JTA reported that three Jews were hospitalized following the incident.

In addition to feeling connected to the synagogue, Herzfeld said he plans to bring the message that anti-Semites will often couch their prejudice in anti-Israel sentiment, but an attack on one religion isn’t just an attack on that religion, he said.

“This is not just an attack on the Jewish people, this is an attack on humanity,” he explained. “That’s an attack on every house of prayer, on every religion in the world.”

Herzfeld asked members of his congregation to send messages along with him.

“What we’ve learned from our past is that it does not work to be quiet and pretend there is no such thing as anti-Semitism in the world,” said the rabbi. “There will always be anti-Semites who will attack the Jewish people.”