How much does a funeral cost?

Those who have had to cope with the death of a loved one know that stress sometimes can be twofold when family members find out a funeral’s cost. The average price for a direct burial in the

Baltimore area is just under $1,800.

This is how some of the Baltimore/Washington-area funeral homes compare:

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(2010 FCAME Mortuary Price Survey)

 

S’MORES ICE CREAM CAKE

080814_food-cake14 graham crackers, divided
1⁄4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1⁄2 packages (4 ounces each) semi-sweet chocolate*
8 ounces frozen whipped topping, not defrosted
1 3⁄4 quarts of chocolate or vanilla ice cream, softened*
10 ounces miniature marshmallows, divided
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Crush 8 1⁄2 crackers to form fine crumbs. Break remaining crackers into neat rectangles. Place crumbs in a medium bowl, adding butter and sugar. Mix well and press into bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Bake 12 minutes, until light brown and then cool completely. Meanwhile, microwave chocolate and whipped topping on high 2 to 2 1⁄2 minutes or until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is blended (watch carefully, stirring after each minute). Let stand for 15 minutes. Spread this mixture carefully over crust. Stand the cracker rectangles, top sides facing out, around edge of pan, pressing gently into chocolate mixture to secure. Freeze 20 minutes or until filling is firm. Cover with the ice cream. Freeze 4 hours or until very firm. When ready to serve, reserve 2 cups of marshmallows. Microwave remaining marshmallows and mix in a large bowl on high for 1 minute, 15 seconds, until completely melted. Stir after 1 minute to blend. Cool 10 minutes. Preheat broiler. Place pan on a baking sheet. Top with the melted marshmallow mixture and cover with reserved marshmallows. Broil, 6 inches from heat, 1 minute or until marshmallows are golden brown. Remove rim of pan carefully before serving. 12 servings.
*Use any brand of semi-sweet chocolate and any flavor ice cream.

S’MORES CUPCAKES

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 1⁄2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1⁄4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
5-6 full size Hershey’s milk chocolate bars (1.55 ounces each)
2 cups mini-marshmallows, for garnish
1 double batch of homemade or store-bought marshmallow buttercream icing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners. In medium bowl, combine, cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Drop a tablespoon of this mixture into each liner and press down to form crust. Bake 5 minutes and cool on wire rack. Prepare cake mix according to directions on package, Fill liners 2⁄3 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Break chocolate bars into small pieces and melt in microwave, 50 percent power for 30 seconds, stirring after every 30 seconds, until melted. Spoon a tablespoon of melted chocolate on top of cupcakes, spreading to cover. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. Frost cupcakes with the marshmallow buttercream. Drizzle with remaining melted chocolate, if desired, before or after garnishing. Spread the marshmallows on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast under broiler for 15 seconds until golden brown, watching closely. Garnish cupcakes carefully. I used a soft cream cheese icing, and it worked out fine. You can also use a good canned icing. Yields 24 cupcakes.

S’MORE’S SHAKE

080814_food-cupcakes2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
8 marshmallows, roasted (plus a few cut into fourths for garnish)
1⁄4 cup milk
6 scoops vanilla ice cream (about 3 cups)
2 scoops chocolate ice cream (1 cup)
1⁄2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Roast marshmallows in one layer by broiling in oven, but watch very carefully! Make sure ice cream is slightly soft. Heat butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add 8 marshmallows, stirring until they melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, whisk in the milk until smooth. Cool completely. Blend cooled mixture with the ice cream until just combined. Stir in the graham crackers. Pour into glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of graham crumbs and a few toasted mini-marshmallows. You can use all vanilla or other flavors of ice cream. 4 servings.

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.

Bloomberg1 bloomberg2

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.

Baltimore Stands with Israel

090613_Rabbi_Moshe_Hauer

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 baltjc.org/standwithisrael.

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 shmiraproject.com 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.”

JNS.org contributed to this story.

State Highway Administration Repairing Park Heights 695 Bridge

Motorists traveling on Park Heights Avenue should prepare for temporary and long-term lane closures until fall 2015 as the Maryland State Highway Administration makes repairs to the bridge that carries the street over I-695.

The $5.6 million repair includes removing and replacing the riding surface and concrete sidewalks, replacing a steel beam that was damaged by trucks, replacing the overhead bridge lighting with light poles, rehabilitating the concrete supports and abutments at each end of the bridge, cleaning and painting the steel and reconstructing the pavement on the approaches to the bridge, according to a news release by SHA.

The project should be completed by fall 2015, weather permitting.

The bridge will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians throughout the project, which began last week. Crews began single lane closures on the bridge last week between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closures ending the following morning. Single lane closures on I-695 under the bridge will occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday.

Nighttime single and double lane closures on I-695 will occur between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closures ending the following morning.

Beginning this fall, one lane in each direction will be closed 24 hours a day until the project is finished.

“SHA encourages drivers to plan ahead for extra commuting time on Park Heights Avenue and drive with caution in the I-695 interchange work zone,” SHA District Engineer David Peake said in a statement. “Pedestrians should also look ahead for changing traffic patterns in the work zone and stay within the designated crossing area on the bridge.”

Residents with questions about the project can contact SHA’s District 4 Office, Construction Division, at 410-229-2420, 866-998-0367 or shadistrict4@sha.state.md.us.

Israel Lacrosse Makes World Championship Debut

Despite turmoil at home and protests at practices, coaches say the Israel national team is ready to play.

Despite turmoil at home and protests at practices, coaches say the Israel national team is ready to play.

Amid turmoil at home, the Israeli national lacrosse team made their FIL World Championship Friday, July 11 with a 19-4 win over 10th-ranked Sweden.
The team traveled to host state Colorado earlier this month, just days after the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens were found in the West Bank and a week before Israel officially launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas targets in Gaza. Since the start of the games, the team has beat Sweden, Slovakia, Ireland, Korea and Germany for a 5-0 record as of Tuesday.
“At the same time while we think about the games, we also think about what’s going on in Israel,” said head coach William Beroza in an interview with the JT ahead of the team’s debut. “It’s a challenging time for a lot of the players, but, you know, we’re excited about playing lacrosse.”
With three players enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and more planning to enlist after the games, the team has been watching the news regularly, said Beroza, but the notion of dropping out has not so much as crossed their minds, he asserted.
“We end every practice, every dinner, basically understanding what’s going on back there, with our prayers and wishing them well,” said Beroza. “It’s not a major distraction, it’s just it’s something we need to think about, certainly.”
Since arriving to the U.S., the team has taken extra precautions to ensure the safety of the athletes and staff. Their schedule and hotel accommodations are not disclosed to the public and the team has hired a private security firm which has worked closely with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Denver police, said Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association.
In addition, the association has temporarily closed its headquarters in Ashkelon and relocated staff to the program’s Tel Aviv office.
Despite the efforts to protect the team in recent weeks, coaches and players have not been immune to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement picking up steam across parts of the U.S. Beroza said the team has had to deal with a protestor at one of their practices and even had to make changes in their practice locations due to non-violent threats.
At the end of the day, though, Beroza said, “we’re here to play lacrosse.”