Opportunity Knocks

Cindy Perlow became a certified nurse  assistant through a new Red Cross program. (provided)

Cindy Perlow became a certified nurse
assistant through a new Red Cross program.

Once her children, Seth and Hannah, were old enough to go to school, Cindy Perlow, a stay-at-home mother from Reisterstown, found herself at a bit of a loss. What was next? For several years, Perlow taught at the Joseph and Corinne Schwartz Preschool at Beth Israel, but eventually she felt ready for a change. When a cousin called with a job caring for her husband’s grandmother, a centenarian still living at home, Perlow decided to give it a try.

“I stayed with her for two-and-a-half years, and I really enjoyed it,” said Perlow, 48. “But when she turned 103, the family decided she needed to move to Milford Manor [Nursing Home], where she could get more care.”

Perlow, who had grown to think of her former client as a grandmother, continued to visit her at Milford Manor.

“One day when I was visiting, Rachel Rosenstock [a nurse and nursing assistant instructor] with the Red Cross, approached me and said, ‘I have a great program for you.’”

Rosenstock was referring to the Red Cross’ intensive five-week Nurse Assistant Training (NAT) program. Perlow had looked into becoming a nurse assistant before, but the trainings had all been too expensive and too time consuming. In this case, the training was brief, and she was eligible to receive a $1,000 stipend from the Walmart Foundation to pay for her training. The foundation had
recently announced a $3.5 million grant to the American Red Cross to fund training for entry-level health-care professionals, and Perlow became one of the 2,500 recipients.

Almost immediately after she completed the course and received her nursing assistant certification, Perlow found a job with the Lisa Vogel Agency, which provides in-home health care. She now works five days a week caring for an elderly client in Stevenson.

Caregiving comes naturally to Perlow, who said she has been babysitting and helping her mother to care for aging grandparents since she was very young. Now, in addition to her nurse assistant job and raising her children, Perlow also assists her 78-year-old father when he needs help.

“I really like working with older people because I enjoy learning about their experiences and hearing their stories,” she said. “Besides, health care is the biggest-growing industry. All of the baby boomers will be needing care. I feel like angels have made all of this happen.”

For more information about the Walmart Foundation’s nursing assistant stipends, visit rdcrss.org/18RXDoi.

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — sellin@jewishtimes.com

Oseh Shalom In Laurel Gets Something New On Top

The light coming through the new dome “is pristine white all the way.” (provided)

The light coming through the new dome “is pristine white all the way.”

What a difference a dome makes. Oseh Shalom in Laurel has a new dome atop its sanctuary, replacing one that had crowned the Reconstructionist synagogue since 1991.

Made of fiberglass sheets that are usually used for skylights, the dome was badly deteriorating, said Barry Nove, Oseh Shalom’s facilities manager. “The light that was coming in was yellow.”

The original dome was disassembled Dec. 18-19, one 75-pound sheet at a time, and the new dome was installed the same way.

“This is pristine white all the way through,” Nove said of the light that now streams into the sanctuary from above, making the space three times brighter during the day.

The new dome has a coating of glass on the outside that will extend its life. Nove doesn’t expect Oseh Shalom will need to replace it again for another 30 to 40 years.

Domes are a common architectural motif in the Middle East. In the United States, the great age of domed synagogues began in the late 19th century and lasted through the 1920s, said synagogue historian Samuel Gruber, author of “American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture and Jewish Community.”

“Domes are architecturally interesting,” he says. “People like them because they unify the space and you can read in a lot of symbolism, if you want to.”

The Hebrew word for dome is kippah, and like that religious head covering, the dome “inspires us to look beyond ourselves,” said Oseh Shalom’s Rabbi Doug Heifetz. “The dome is one of our most central motifs. It calls us to look higher, to aim for the highest possible vision of ourselves and our world.”

Maryland’s State Sport Takes To The Holy Land

Baltimore-area players and coaches joined Israeli lacrosse teams during a recent program sponsored by the  Israel Lacrosse Association. Attendees were (from left) Lilly Pollak, Davia Procida, Sarah Meisenberg, Michael Pfeffer, Jake Gavilow, Drew Saltzman, Jordan Abel and Max Wendell. (Provided)

Baltimore-area players and coaches joined Israeli lacrosse teams during a recent program sponsored by the Israel Lacrosse Association. Attendees were (from left) Lilly Pollak, Davia Procida, Sarah Meisenberg, Michael Pfeffer, Jake Gavilow, Drew Saltzman, Jordan Abel and Max Wendell. (Provided)

Five teens — four boys and one girl — from Baltimore joined a select group of Jewish American lacrosse players for an international competition that took place late last month in Israel and Poland.

Sponsored by the Israel Lacrosse Association, the U-19 [under 19] National program saw Lilly Pollak, Jordan Abel, Jake Gavilow and Max Wendell of Owings Mills and Drew Saltzman of Pikesville, in addition to teammates from other parts of the U.S. and Israel, compete in exhibition games, visit Israeli schools and conduct youth lacrosse clinics. At the end of the trip, the best American players and their Israeli teammates competed in a regional tournament in Warsaw.

The program, which ran from Dec. 21 to Dec. 30, drew on a coaching staff that included native Baltimoreans Davia Procida of Columbia and Sarah Meisenberg of Severna Park. Michael Pfeffer of Baltimore, who made aliyah after college to join the Israel Defense Force and now plays for Tel Aviv Lacrosse, served as the group’s security guard throughout the trip.

Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association, attributed the program’s genesis to his country’s senior men’s team, which received an invitation to participate in a Polish tournament that included teams from Poland, Latvia and Israel.

“The senior team was preparing for the world championship next July, so we thought it would be a good idea to send players from the U-19 league,” said Neiss. “We are the Jewish team, and every Jew is eligible for Israeli citizenship, so we decided to mix some Jewish American players with the Israeli kids.”

Since Baltimore is a hotbed of lacrosse — it’s been Maryland’s official state team sport since 2004 — and because of the Baltimore/ Ashkelon partnership directed by Sigal Arieli, the program received significant support from both communities.

Neiss noted that in addition to promoting lacrosse in Israel, the program encourages relationships between young Jewish Americans and their Israeli counterparts, exposes Jewish American teens to Israel and teaches social responsibility and civic engagement. Prior to their departure from the United States, organizers encouraged each American athlete to collect lightly used lacrosse equipment for the benefit of their Israeli counterparts who might otherwise have been unable to afford the items.

The program also encouraged Hebrew language acquisition, requiring all players to use Hebrew instead of English on the field.

“For many of these [American] kids, this was their first trip to Israel. So we tried to do some touring around Israel while they were there,” said Neiss. The itinerary included stops to landmarks in Netanya, Ashkelon and Jerusalem, as well as Jewish sites in Warsaw.

For many players, “lacrosse is their passion and their religion,” said Neiss. “With all the recruiting camps in the summer, where does Israel fit in?”

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter

Burglaries Hit Pikesville Area

Residents of the Upper Park Heights area straddling Baltimore City and County have experienced several burglaries, an attempted break-in and a robbery, according to Shomrim of Baltimore and local police.

Baltimore County police said there were two daytime burglaries in the Ranchleigh community between Dec. 18 and Dec. 20. Shomrim, meanwhile, reported several thefts over a period of two days.

“It’s not unusual for crime to go up between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Ronnie Rosenbluth, Shomrim’s vice president. “What’s worrisome is that these types of crimes, particularly people attempting to break into homes, have been increasing.”

The Baltimore County burglaries reportedly took place in Gerard Court and the 2300 block of Farringdon Road.

Any time county police receive reports of related crimes, patrols are increased, said police spokeswoman Cathleen Batton. There have neen no additional burglaries in the area since the first two, she said. The Northwest Citizens Patrol announced that officials of both police departments said at a Dec. 26 meeting with community representatives that they had issued a “crime trend alert.”

Synagogues throughout the area alerted congregants by email three days earlier to the spate of robberies, urging people to lock their doors, be alert and notify officials of anything suspicious.

On the city side, two incidents on Dec. 16 — in the 2800 block of Cheswolde Road and the 6200 block of Winner Avenue — resulted in the reported theft of jewelry and two laptops and a broken window while a woman was home, according to Shomrim. The day before, two men allegedly took packages and a wallet from a parked car in the 6400 block of Green Meadow Parkway while the car’s owner unpacked his belongings. Two suspects reportedly left two bicycles behind as they fled.

Baltimore City police could not be reached for comment.

Baltimore County police offered free home security surveys and asked residents to report suspicious activity by calling 410-887-2222. Shomrim urged residents to email Baltimore City Councilwoman Rikki Spector at rikki.spector@baltimorecity.gov and to copy crimereports@shomrim.net if they have been victims of any crime since Aug. 1. The effort, according to the organization’s Facebook page, is to ensure crime is properly reported.

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter — mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Maryland Congressional Representatives Push For New FBI HQ

The FBI's current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.

The FBI’s current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.

Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, as well as Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-5) and Donna Edwards (D-4), are hoping the Federal Bureau of Investigation will open its new headquarters in Greenbelt.

“Prince George’s County has the ability to donate, at no cost to the federal government, the proposed location that meets the size requirements and is located directly adjacent to a Metro station,” a statement from the legislators said. “This project will bring thousands of jobs to the county, boost our local economy and generate additional revenues for our community.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker sent a proposal to the U.S. General Services Administration on Dec. 17 for the site, which is a leading candidate for the new FBI headquarters.

Earlier in 2013, the entire Maryland delegation, which also includes Reps. Elijah Cummings, Chris Van Hollen, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Andy Harris and John Delaney, sent a letter to the heads of the FBI and GSA in support of a site in Prince George’s County. They noted that Maryland has the highest percentage of FBI employees of any jurisdiction at 43 percent.

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter — mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Tamar Epstein’s 5-Year Battle for Marital Freedom Apparently Over

Tamar Epstein and Rabbi Jeremy Stern were part of a 2012 Yeshiva University discussion to raise awareness on the plight of agunot. (provided)

Tamar Epstein and Rabbi Jeremy Stern were part of a 2012 Yeshiva University discussion to raise awareness on the plight of agunot.

Some are saying that Tamar Epstein, the former Silver Spring resident who has not received a Jewish divorce for more than five years, is now free to go on with her life. Details of the arrangement are sketchy, however, as a source close to her former husband denied that an official Jewish bill of divorce, known as a get, was ever given.

“A get has not been given,” the source said emphatically.

But according to Rabbi Jeremy Stern, director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, “the case is resolved. It is a closed case from our end.”

Stern’s organization advocates on behalf of agunot, the so-called “chained women” who, although civilly divorced from their husbands, may not marry according to Jewish law because their husbands have refused to provide them with the necessary legal papers.

In an email sent to the Washington Jewish Week, ORA announced that “after scores of rallies, thousands of letters and years of persistent advocacy and hopeful prayers … we are very excited to announce that Tamar Is Free!”

Stern said he couldn’t comment further on the case, which drew national attention, noting that “the situation is very sensitive right now.”

Epstein married Aharon Friedman, an aide to Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), in April 2006. The couple had a daughter in November 2007 and then separated in March 2008. They sought a civil divorce in April 2010.

Suzanne Pollak writes for JT’s sister publication, Washington Jewish Week.

Paying More For Energy

122713_bgeOn Dec. 13, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered partial gas and electric distribution rate increases, as well as a surcharge to fund accelerated grid reliability.

According to Regina L. Davis, a spokeswoman at the PSC, the commission’s order balanced various interests and obligations, including the need to set just and reasonable rates, ensure safe, reliable service, maintain the utility’s financial integrity and allow BGE to earn a reasonable return.

While the increases, which, according to BGE spokeswoman Rachael Lighty, will not be much (an estimated $2.13 per month), rate adjustments of any size can disproportionately affect those on fixed incomes.

“From our perspective, it’s not just that the BGE rate goes up, it’s that everything goes up every year,” said Rona Stein, senior benefits coordinator at Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI). “The clients’ social security checks are eaten away, and the amount of social security doesn’t go up enough to match those increases. It’s all a balancing act.”

Commercial clients of BGE will see their bills increase by less than 1 percent, said Lighty. All customers will also begin to see surcharges to fund BGE’s Electric Reliability Investment (ERI) on their BGE bills beginning in April 2014.

“BGE’s ERI initiative is a wide-ranging plan that BGE proposes to undertake in the next five years to accelerate reliability improvements set forth in the Maryland PSC’s February 2013 order relating to the June 2012 derecho,” said Lighty.

Although the amount of the surcharge has not yet been determined, estimates for residential customers are 34 cents a month in the first year, with small increases in subsequent years. By the fifth year of the initiative, most residents will be charged an additional 75 cents a month.

Stein said her agency is  “always educating” its clients about energy conservation as part of its goal to “make sure that seniors and people with disabilities can stay in their homes.”

Stein also helps her clients to apply for the benefits to which they’re entitled. “When someone says, ‘I won’t apply for food stamps because it’s only $16, I encourage them to apply. Every little bit helps.”

One of Stein’s clients is Shirley Jackson, 83, of Park Heights. Jackson hasn’t noticed the increase in her BGE bill yet, but she admitted that paying even a few dollars more per month would make life harder. After paying her monthly bills, Jackson has about $100 left for food. She had been receiving an additional $16 per month in food stamps, but recently, her monthly food stamp allotment was decreased to $15. “We have to do the best we can,” she said.

Stein said that increases in energy costs not only impact her clients financially. “They also eat away at them emotionally. They can never catch up with financial demands.”

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter

Credit Card Numbers Compromised For 40 Million Target Customers’

122713_credit-card-numbers_compromised_target_customersCredit and debit card information of approximately 40 million Target customers was accessed by unauthorized means between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, according a statement the company released on Thursday, Dec. 19.

The theft included customer name, credit or debit card number, expiration date and CVV, the three- or four-digit security code on the back of cards.

“If their security can be breached, anybody’s can be breached,” said Sandy Raynes, who was shopping at Target in Owings Mills on Dec. 19. Her credit card information has been stolen three times in the past two years, including one charge of $6,000 that her credit card company caught.

In a notice to customers, the company said it partnered with a top third-party forensics firm to investigate the incident and determine additional prevention measures.

“Target’s first priority is preserving the trust of our guests, and we have moved swiftly to address this issue so guests can shop with confidence,” Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO of Target, said in a statement. “We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”

Mary Jo Landis, who was also shopping at Target on Dec. 19, said she was going to make her purchases in cash. She stops at the store about once every two weeks and said she may use her card again after the New Year.

“It’s just a little scary,” she said.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler released a statement recommending Marylanders check bank accounts daily, report suspicious activity to financial institutions, consider adding a fraud alert to credit reports or get a new card if the current one was compromised.

Gansler said there are several factors that concern him. It’s disturbing that something of this magnitude went undetected and happened to one of America’s top retailers.

“We do rely on companies the size of Target and that do business like Target to have proper safeguards in place,” Gansler said.

He expects attorneys general around the country to convene and work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on future actions.

While Target’s breach was large, two recent breaches included more than double the number of thefts. In 2007, 90 million T.J. Maxx customers’ data was stolen, and in 2009, a breach of card processor Heartland Payment Systems resulted in the largest card theft to date, with 130 million stolen numbers.

Target asked customers who think their information was stolen to call 866-852-8680 and contact credit reporting agencies such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It also recommended that Maryland residents contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Office of the Attorney General. More information can be found at corporate.target.com/discover/article/Important-Notice-Unauthorized-access-to-payment-ca.

Anti-Defamation League’s Top 10 Issues Affecting Jews in 2013

122713_anti_defamation_league_top_10_issuesThe Anti-Defamation League compiled a list of 10 significant issues and events that the organization determines could affect the lives of Jews worldwide. Nuclear arms talks, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and increases in anti-Semitic attacks are found on the list, as well as the election of Pope Francis and his positive influence on Catholic-Jewish relations.

The list is as follows:
1. World powers negotiate with Iran, with limited results
2. In a visit to Jerusalem, President Obama urges a two-state solution
3. Supreme Court decisions change landscape for civil rights in America
4. Attacks against Jews increase globally; neo-Nazis gain traction in Europe
5. Election of Pope Francis bodes well for Catholic-Jewish relations
6. Syrian civil war prompts a refugee crisis; Assad fires chemical weapons
7. Anti-Semitism challenges Internet providers
8. U.S. spearheads new round of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations
9. Anti-Israel activity spreads on American college campuses
10. Anti-Semitism declines domestically, but concerns remain

“The diplomatic talks in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program were a serious gamble for the U.S. and the other five countries involved,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “And now that there’s a limited initial agreement on the table, there is also an open question of Iran being truly serious about conceding its nuclear weapons program and arriving at a comprehensive final agreement.”

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL national chair, also cited significant changes to the civil rights landscape, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision to declare a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, as well as striking down a critical component of the Voting Rights Act.

“These were landmark decisions that could impact Americans and the Jewish community for years to come,” Curtiss-Lusher said.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

24 Hours Under The Radar

[slideshow id=”24 Hours Under The Radar”]

On Nov. 21, 2013, the staff of the Baltimore Jewish Times sought out, photographed and engaged with Jewish Baltimore. Twenty-four hours. Three teams. One city. An impressive and diverse cross section of the area’s Jewish people.

What comprises Jewish Baltimore? A lot of very different people, places, traditions and organizations, to be sure.

“24 Hours Under the Radar” is a glimpse into the ordinary — and therefore, extraordinary — behind-the-scenes lives of Jewish Baltimoreans. These are people who infuse some of the Jewish into Jewish Baltimore because of what they do, how they act, what they believe and, in some cases, simply because they’re Jewish. And each adds to the unique flavor of the city.

The following profiles are just a glimpse into that deep well of Jewish identity, culture and pride found here in Baltimore.

There is much more to uncover.

Read the, “Reporter’s Blog” by Melissa Gerr. >>

Photographers: David Stuck, Melissa Gerr, Marc Shapiro
Writers: Simone Ellin, Melissa Gerr, Maayan Jaffe, Heather Norris, Marc Shapiro