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 bremfoundation.org.


Emergency Israel Funds Launched

In light of the violence taking place in Israel, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore has assured members of the Jewish community that they are closely monitoring the events taking place there.

In partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, The Associated reported they are providing “immediate and necessary support and resources, including trauma relief for those at risk and mobilization for vulnerable populations to safer environments.”

The Associated encourages members of the community to lend their support in a variety of ways: by making a contribution to its Israel Emergency Relief Campaign; by visiting associated.org to keep abreast of the newest information; by following The Associated on Facebook and Twitter; by messaging friends and family in Ashkelon on the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Facebook page; or by sending a card to the children of Ashkelon by emailing Amalia Phillips at the Macks Center for Education.

The Associated and its partners are not the only Jewish organizations stepping up to support Israel. The National Council of Jewish Women has initiated an emergency fundraising drive to support the EDEN Association for at-risk teenage girls, an organization it has long supported through its Israel Granting Program.

NCJW announced it has raised more than $10,000 in gifts in less than 24 hours for EDEN, which is located just a mile-and-a-half from the Gaza Strip, where many of the most serious attacks have taken place.

“Because the girls of EDEN come from high-risk home environments, returning to their families at this time is not an option,” said NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman. “NCJW is grateful that when the need is greatest, once again our supporters come through quickly and generously with critical funds to ensure that these young girls can be moved to safety.”

The public can support EDEN by donating through NCJW’s website.

“Life is complicated in this part of the world, but the services we fund go on because they must,” said Michael Friedman, senior vice president of The Associated’s philanthropic planning and services department, who is in Israel on the JFNA campaign chairs and directors mission. “For those of us visiting, this is nothing like our normal routine. Unfortunately for the citizens of Israel, sirens and shelters are all too familiar.”

Lone Soldier Fund Serves Thousands

Lt. Col. Tzvika Levy’s organization provides inspiration and support to nearly 6,000 lone soldiers. (Provided)

Lt. Col. Tzvika Levy’s organization provides inspiration and support to nearly 6,000 lone soldiers. (Provided)

Talk about having a large family. Lt. Col. Tzvika Levy has his hands full. An officer who is part of an elite unit within the Israel Defense Force’s paratrooper brigade, Levy is also founder and director of Tzvika Levy’s Lone Soldiers.

For the past 25 years, Levy has held this post, a position in which he has served as a
father figure to thousands of men and women from all over the world.

Since war broke out in Gaza last week, Levy has been shuttling between military bases, bringing encouragement and much-needed supplies to his lone soldiers. In a phone call with the JT on Monday, Levy said, “We need underclothes, T-shirts, socks, hats and towels.”

The nearly 6,000 lone soldiers Levy’s organization supports hail from 40 countries and came to Israel voluntarily and by themselves to serve in the Israeli military. In addition to providing necessities and emotional support, Levy’s job entails finding homes and surrogate families for the soldiers, most of whom have left their home countries for no reason other than their desire to protect the Jewish state.

Levy, who is endorsed by Eddie Rogers of the Friends of the IDF Baltimore Chapter’s board of directors, praised the lone soldiers for their bravery and commitment, stressing the fact that “no one asked these people to come. They came because of their love for Israel.”

Levy said that nearly half of the lone soldiers who join the IDF choose to serve in dangerous combat positions.

For more information, visit LoneSoldierIDF.com or the organization’s Facebook page.


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 californiagourmet.net.

“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.


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.

Far From Home

Julie August of Pikesville can’t help but get choked up when talking about her son, Josh. A soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, Josh, 20, will be transferred from his usual post in the northern part of Israel to a base near Gaza in the next day or two. The Augusts are one of many families from Jewish Baltimore with children serving in the Israeli army. Some like Josh, a Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate, were already on active duty, while others are among the 40,000 reservists called up to serve as part of Operation Protective Edge.
“All the fighters, especially the lone soldiers [who do not have parents or siblings in the country] are showing incredible courage,” said August, who grew up in Israel and “understands and appreciates the desire to serve.”
But that doesn’t mean she isn’t worried.
“I’m fluent in Hebrew so I’ve been reading all the newspapers,” she said. And in recent days, the news from Israel has not been good.
Vito and Gail Simone of Summit Park don’t know yet whether their son Alex will be deployed. Vito Simone said Alex had recently been in Baltimore for a two week visit. “We just took him to the airport, and he just returned to Tel Aviv where he lives,” he said of the 26-year-old, also a Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate, who immigrated to Israel three years ago.
“He has always been passionate about Israel and his Jewish identity. We are very proud and sometimes anxious,” he admitted. “Fortunately, we don’t have iPhones so we’re not getting red alerts on our phones all the time to drive us crazy.”
Simone said he has been disappointed by what he sees as local politicians’ lack of condemnation for Hamas, and the absence of strong support for families like his own who have children serving in the IDF.
“I would like to see elected officials — especially those who are Jewish — come forward and really encourage people to support Israel and our young people there,” explained the father. “There is a strong constituency of families in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland with children who are serving. The silence has been shameful.”
In contrast, he pointed out, he and his family have been grateful for the many friends and relatives who have contacted them to provide support and reassurance.
“They have even tried to thank us for his service,” said Simone. “I don’t know if I can take the credit. These kids are so excited to be part of the effort to defend Israel.”
Penina Eilberg and her family, formerly of Baltimore, learned that their oldest son, Pesach, 25, once a student at Talmudic Academy and Yeshivat Ram Bam, would be deployed while they were at a commemorative ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the family’s move to Israel. Despite her concern for her son and the fact that she has experienced violence and terror attacks — rocks thrown into car windows, drive-by shootings and Molotov cocktails — close to her home in the Nof Zion neighborhood near Jerusalem, Eilberg denied having any regrets about the decision to make aliyah.
“This is our land, our place and we have to make sure we have a safe place to live,” she said. “That’s not to say I’m not nervous, but the more of us who are here the better.”
Pesach Eilberg’s grandmother, Rachel Eilberg, who still lives in Pikesville, admitted she was tense.
“When I’m tense, I usually run out and buy myself ice cream and I’ve been doing that a lot. But look, we all have our duties. I’ll be back in Israel in September for a granddaughter’s wedding and I’ll hope for peace and quiet,” she said.
Rabbi Menachem Goldberger of Congregation Tferes Yisroel said that many of the families who were members of his congregation have made aliyah in recent years. Therefore, he knows many young people who are now active duty soldiers and reservists. Among the congregants who will be serving are Noam Orman, Dani and Aryeh Eastman and Avi Schamroth.
“We feel a number of things [about congregants serving in the IDF],” said Goldberger. “[We feel] pride in their courage and devotion to the Jewish people and also concern since they are out there in harm’s way. We have been saying extra prayers for them during services and individually. My wife has a tehillim

group and they have been meeting frequently.”
Goldberger said that although he has not spoken directly with the young men, he has been in contact with their families through email.
“I just hope God will watch over the Jewish people and that the Israeli government will have the determination to finish this so we do not have to live with this way any longer,” he added.

Problems Unspoken

For many Americans, the 2008 recession was the tipping point, with millions of people losing jobs and savings. Six years later, many are back at work but for wages far lower than they were making before the recession.

The Jewish community in Baltimore is no exception. And religious restrictions on some observant Jews may make just getting by even more difficult.

In the Baltimore area, according to the Living Wage Calculator provided by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a family of two parents and three children is $53,805. For a family of two parents and two children, the living wage is $45,547.

The MIT’s figures take into account expenses such as food, child care, medical costs, housing and transportation, but what if a family keeps kosher and pays up to 20 percent more for meat and perishables? What if they want their children to receive a Jewish education and have to pay day school tuition? What about synagogue fees?

In 2012, U.S. Census Bureau statistics showed that 46.6 percent of Baltimore residents live below 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($44,000 for a four-person household), and 23 percent live below that income marker in Baltimore County. Figures for the Jewish community aren’t far off, with 12 percent of Jewish households reporting having incomes below the 200 percent mark in The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s 2010 community survey. For the senior population living alone, that number shoots to 27 percent.

“It is frightening and stressful to run out of food days before your next paycheck arrives,” said one Baltimore Jewish Community Services client in a letter to the organization. Just months after the client’s husband had lost his job, she was laid off from her own job, putting the family in a bind for money. After using their unemployment benefits to pay their rent and utilities, they feared they would not be able to feed their two daughters or themselves.

Today, said Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, shrinking pensions and retirement accounts are contributing to a greater need than ever before.

“People retire and are often living at a much lower standard than they did before,” said Goldberg, “so even in communities where you think of the people you know as being comfortable, there’s a real question as to how comfortable they’re going to be when it becomes time to retire, whether it’s because you want to or because physically, you have to.”

In the six years following the recession, some local organizations have had to change the way they operate in order to accommodate increased demand. JCS, an agency of The Associated, for instance, had to change the way it handles those seeking financial assistance, increasing the amount of time it provides benefits for any specific client.

The majority of the people JCS helps experience episodic poverty, said executive director Barbara Levy Gradet. They make up part of the one-in-three local Jewish households that, according to the 2010 survey, are just scraping by at best. A bump in the road, like an illness in the family or a job loss, can put them over the edge into needing assistance.

In the past, JCS — which also provides marriage counseling, parenting workshops and addiction and mental health support — provided help to those in need in the form of grocery store gift cards, career counseling and eviction prevention for a maximum of about three months. But in the past few years Gradet and her organization have had to double and even triple that length of time. Additionally, Gradet said, the yearly average for direct assistance given out to community members in the years preceding the recession was about $700,000. This year, JCS gave out $2.6 million to families and individuals unable to get by on their own.

“It’s big, and it’s real,” Gradet said of the poverty problem in the local Jewish community. Making matters worse, she added, is the stereotypical myth that poverty doesn’t exist in the American Jewish community.

“This was an equal-opportunity great recession,” she said. “The community study shows that as a group, we are better educated, we do send more of our kids to college — education is such a deep Jewish value — but in an economy like this and in a job market like this, all bets are off.

“We are better educated, but a lot of people think that makes all Jews affluent, and that is not the case,” she continued. “Those myths are alive in the Jewish community as well.”

B’nai B’rith officials, who have been reaching out to Jews in need for more than 170 years, say stereotypes have hurt their organization in the past. Part of their work involves helping ensure Jewish seniors have a home to live in, something that has become increasingly difficult for many elderly citizens across the United States, as the cost of living has skyrocketed alongside an increasing life expectancy. With a fixed income and little to no access to additional sources of funds, many seniors turn to B’nai B’rith for their affordable senior apartments.

“Obviously there are a lot of images of Jews in media as ostentatiously wealthy and all these ideas about running the entertainment industry and what not,” said B’nai B’rith’s Goldberg. “Those stereotypes about what Jews are and what Jews have still really do exist, and it affects not only public perception and anti-Semitism, but it makes it a little bit more difficult for low-income older adults who are Jewish to reach out for the services they need because people internalize those kinds of things. It’s one reason, in this community, that people are a little uncomfortable asking for help.”

Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president at B’nai B’rith, can recall one not-so-distant memory of a town in southern Florida denying the organization’s zoning request to build affordable senior housing there because, town officials and community members said, “there’s no poverty in the Jewish community here.” A nearby town got wind of what happened and offered land for the units, but the experience was a wakeup call, said Olshan.

A Lofty Goal

Jesse Schwartzman is the MLL’s all-time winningest goalie. (Photos provided)

Jesse Schwartzman is the MLL’s
all-time winningest goalie. (Photos provided)

Pikesville’s own Jesse Schwartzman is on the U.S. national team’s 23-man roster for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Colorado.

He was named to the team following a tryout process that began locally at Goucher College last September. Additional tryouts were held in Orlando, Fla., in January. The final team was selected from a 31-player roster that attended training camps in Connecticut and Massachusetts and competed in the Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge.

“It was long, strenuous, stressful,” Schwartzman, a goalie, said.

Schwartzman, 28, was a two-time All-American at Pikesville High School and then played for Johns Hopkins University. He now handles gaol-tending duties for the Denver Outlaws. This season, he became the MLL’s all-time winningest goalie with 62 career victories.

Just days after the roster was named, Schwartzman and his teammates headed to a training camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to prepare for the world championships, which started Thursday and run through July 19 in Denver.

Playing by international rules for Team USA is very different from playing for the Outlaws, he said.

“All the rules are different, the style of play is different,” he said. “The only similarity is that you’re familiar with some of the players.”

A record 38 nations, including Israel, are playing 142 games over 10 days, with the U.S. defending its title. The American men defeated Canada for the 2010 championship in Manchester, England. For lacrosse fans, the championship brings a World Cup level of excitement.

“It happens every four years in a different country, so it’s exactly like the World Cup,” said Schwartzman. “There’s round-robin play, then the elimination rounds.

“The skill level is off the charts,” he added. “The best players in the world are here.”

071114_lacrosseIn addition to the U.S.-Canada rivalry, Schwartzman says fans can look for excitement from the Iroquois Nation Native American team.

Baltimore boasts fervent lacrosse fans, and Schwartzman finds much of the country is also onboard.

“There’s definitely a ton of excitement with social media for sure,” Schwartzman said. “There are big billboards where the games are being held. There’s a big sense of excitement.”

About 10 friends and family members are in Denver to cheer Schwartzman on.

In addition to his busy lacrosse schedule, Schwartzman finds time to actively give back to the community. Working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he hosted, in May, a young cancer patient and lacrosse fan from New York, Kyle Norton, who spent a weekend with the Outlaws

“I’ve always done charitable work,” said Schwartzman. “I feel that giving back to the community is very important. Helping those who are less fortunate is very important to me and my family. I grew up that way.”

When he was at Hopkins, Schwartzman spent time volunteering at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Schwartzman still lives in Baltimore — he flies to Denver for Outlaws’ games — and remains active locally.

He helps coach a couple of Maryland Lacrosse Club teams and recently spent a couple hours coaching kids at the JCC sports camp in Owings Mills.

Amy Landsman is a local freelance writer.