Cheder Chabad Cyberthon Smashes Fundraising Goal

Children from Cheder Chabad’s preschool pose for a photo by the playground. (David Stuck)

Children from Cheder Chabad’s preschool pose for a photo by the playground. (David Stuck)

Cheder Chabad of Baltimore raised $165,200 to put toward its school’s  scholarship fund through a 24-hour fundraising platform, charidy.com.

The website requires campaigns to seek sponsors who will match their funds dollar-for-dollar with the contingency the goal is met in a single day. Cheder Chabad was sponsored by Tov’s Pizza, Dougie’s, Eden’s Café and DJ’sNE  Diamonds (Noam Efron); each sponsor pledged $18,000.

A mother of three girls who attend Cheder Chabad, Rikal Kaler spearheaded the campaign by contacting other moms from the school to help spread the word, organizing meetings leading up to the campaign day, naming the campaign 72k1Day Cyberthon and choosing the standout color of bright orange.

On the day of the campaign, the mothers, with their children by their sides, raised an estimated $25,000 within the first hour of making calls. Early in the afternoon, the goal of $72,000 was hit. By the end of the campaign, the group had doubled its initial goal.

Cheder Chabad, which started nine years ago, has more than 180 students ranging from infants to middle school.

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

A Cultural Spotlight CJC to host 24th annual film series

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” is the first film in a series of four being shown at the Columbia Jewish Congregation. (Provided)

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” is the first film in a series of four being shown at the Columbia Jewish Congregation. (Provided)

When Sylvia Bloch began the  annual Columbia Jewish Congregation film series more than two decades ago, the problem was finding high-quality films with Jewish themes. Today, she said, the problem is picking among a long list of worthy candidates.

“The film series has two missions: entertainment and bringing the Jewish community together,” said CJC Rabbi Sonya Starr. “But also equal to that is the mandate to learn through different mediums, and theater is one ways we understand [other cultures].”

The congregation will screen the first of four movies on Jan. 16, and while some have heavier topics than others, they are all centered on Jewish themes. The first film, “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” presents the trials and tribulations of an  Israeli women who is trapped in a loveless marriage and seeking a  divorce.

The subject of divorce is particularly popular, as the case of Tamar  Epstein has played out in the news over the past several months.  Epstein, who used a high-profile campaign to force her husband into granting her a divorce, remarried this past September in Memphis, Tenn., after a Philadelphia rabbi used a rare procedure to annul her marriage.

This started a wave of backlash from the Orthodox community,  including from Rabbi Aharon Feldman, head of Baltimore’s Ner Israel  Rabbinical College who wrote in an open letter that “the woman is considered married for all purposes and is forbidden for any other man until a religious court rules otherwise,” the Forward reported.

“Israeli culture can seem foreign, so to watch this movie and see a very serious problem that needs to be addressed in the Jewish community is vital for us to change the  situation for agunah,” said Starr. Agunah is a term used to refer to a “chained woman” or a woman is  unable to divorce her husband.

Tom Laufer, a member at CJC and the chair of the committee that selected the films, said he is sure  Epstein’s name will come up in the discussion following the film. However, he emphasized the committee was looking to strike a balance when they chose what films to show.

 

 The film series has two missions:  entertainment and bringing the Jewish community together. But also equal  to that is the mandate to learn through different mediums and theater is one ways we understand [other cultures].”
— Rabbi Sonya Starr, Columbia Jewish Congregation

The congregation is showing “The Yankles,” on Feb. 20, which features the rabbinical dean of an Orthodox yeshiva starting a collegiate baseball team. The film has been the winner of several awards such as the Golden Ace Award in the 2010 Las Vegas Film Festival; best comedy at the 2010 International Family Film Festival and best feature in the 2010 Palm Beach  International Film Festival.

“I’ve been pushing for ‘The Yankles’ because it sounded very witty,” said Delana Stanfield, a member of CJC who was a part of the committee. “I was intrigued by the topic. I’m  really taken by the theme of an  ex-convict who takes redemption by coaching a Jewish baseball team. It’s been called an uplifting crowd-pleaser.”

Stanfield, who is a lover of  foreign films, said one film she recommends, which was not selected for this year, is the “The Green Prince,” a documentary about how the son of a founding leader of Hamas becomes a spy for Israel.

“Every film has a particular  emphasis, and [we try] to show a different genre with each film,” said Bloch.

“The Flat,” which is being shown several weeks ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, answers the question: How does one deal with the Nazi past? It features a documentarian cleaning out the Tel Aviv apartment of his deceased grandmother. What he finds leads him to evidence that his German Jewish grandparents had a standing relationship with a  senior Nazi SS officer.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all of [the films] as far as the subjects go,” said Laufer. “[But] I think the last one, ‘Dancing in Jaffa,’ is very uplifting film.’”

The film features an Arab teacher from Jaffa who comes back to open a dance school for Jewish and Arab children.

Said Bloch, “[‘Dancing in Jaffa’ shows that] maybe there can be a breakthrough between Palestinians and Israelis coming together.”


 

Columbia Jewish Congregation’s
24th Annual Jewish Film Series
5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia
Jan. 16: “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”
Feb. 20: “The Yankles”
March 19: “The Flat”
April 16: “Dancing in Jaffa”
Tickets are $32 for four films, $27 for three films,
$19 for two films and $10 per single film. Sold at the door.

For more information, contact Robin Rosenfeld at robin@columbiajewish.org or 410-730-6044.

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Temple Emanuel May Become Part of Baltimore Hebrew Substantive discussions’ are moving forward

Temple Emanuel, which sold its Reisterstown building (pictured) in June, may become part of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Temple Emanuel, which sold its Reisterstown building (pictured) in June, may become part of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

One of Baltimore’s Reform congregations may absorb another as Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Temple Emanuel are in talks about Temple Emanuel becoming part of BHC.

While nothing is finalized yet, Temple Emanuel president David Beller said that Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman elected not to renew her contract, which expires on June 30, 2016.

“We have concluded that the challenges [of] remaining a small independent congregation continue to be significant,” Beller said via email.

A press release said the congregations have engaged in “substantive discussions.” BHC Rabbi Elissa Sachs- Kohen said the congregation will welcome members of Temple Emanuel to become a part of Baltimore Hebrew.

“The goal for Baltimore Hebrew’s side of the conversation is to absolutely help maintain the legacy of Temple Emanuel and to integrate Temple Emanuel into Baltimore Hebrew as best as we can, but for Baltimore Hebrew, we’re going to be maintaining our congregational identity and integrating where possible,” she said. “What I can say with certainty is that while nothing is finalized, everyone on both sides of the conversation feels good about the process of working out the arrangements. It’s been very amicable and friendly.”

Part of that integration includes Temple Emanuel’s sacred objects, the details of which Sachs-Kohen said are still being worked out.

There will be initial representation of Temple Emanuel leaders on BHC’s board, and BHC will maintain its lay leadership, clergy, staff, traditions and building, the press release said.

“We’ve had wonderful discussions, and we’re moving forward,” said BHC president Martha Weiman. “Stay tuned.”

In June, Temple Emanuel sold its building on Berrymans Lane in Reisterstown, which was its home since 1995, to Messiah Community Church. In the early 2000s, with membership approaching 400 units (membership units can be an individual or a family of any size), the synagogue expanded its footprint and built a two-story
education wing.

In recent years, the congregation’s numbers slowly shrunk, as they did at several other congregations in the Baltimore area and many throughout the country. The synagogue currently has about 160 member units, Beller said.

As for the arrangement at Beth Israel, Randi Buergenthal, the synagogue’s president, said the congregations have an amicable arrangement.

“We have a very good relationship with Temple Emanuel. We certainly understand that they need to do what’s best for their congregation,” she said.

“We have a lease arrangement with them, and both of us will be honoring the terms of the lease. And that’s really it.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Peaceful Passage Veterinarian provides in-home visits to gently let pets pass

Dr. Julie Rabinowitz (Provided)

Dr. Julie Rabinowitz (Provided)

Earlier this month, Blake, the 80-pound black lab that lived a happy life right to the end, sat calm and relaxed in his favorite spot on the floor at home. After making sure he was comfortably sedated, veterinarian Dr. Julie Rabinowitz gently administered a lethal injection and then “he took three deep breaths and he was gone. It was very peaceful,” said Blake’s owner, Inga Jackman, 61, of Overlea.

Jackman found Rabinowitz through an Internet search, where she discovered Peaceful Passage, Rabinowitz’s business that provides euthanasia for pets in the comfort of their own homes.

“From the moment I spoke with her — at the first contact, I was so emotional I couldn’t talk —she was so kind and so gentle,” said Jackman. When she arrived “she sat on my dog-hair-covered floor like she lived here,” and even though they had to wait for Jackman’s husband to arrive home — he was stuck in traffic — “I never felt rushed,” Jackman said. “She was the most compassionate person. Peaceful passage was the best way to describe it.”

About six years ago, Rabinowitz, who was, and still is, working part time at the Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital in Pikesville, received more and more requests from clients for house calls to euthanize ill pets, which gave her the idea to start a business.

“The majority of these folks I’ve not met before,” said Rabinowitz, who cited several reasons owners appreciate the in-home visits. “First of all, they don’t have to put their ailing pet in the car.” For pets that may be suffering from a debilitating cancer or have orthopedic issues, the car ride alone can be stressful and cause major discomfort. And “people often say to me, I can’t imagine my pet passing on a cold steel table,” and this way owners “are allowed to grieve in the privacy of their own homes. Very often, they want to hold their pet, which can be more complicated in an office setting.” At home, they can rest against a couch or chair, she added, because “it’s  important to me that [the owners] are comfortable too.”

Rabinowitz, 40, who is religiously observant so her business is closed for Shabbat and all Jewish holidays, says she receives about 65 requests per month, and demand is growing. So much so that she recently hired Dr. Ayrika White-Mfoudi to work with her.

Dr. Ayrika White-Mfoudi (Provided)

Dr. Ayrika White-Mfoudi (Provided)

White-Mfoudi, 39, worked at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Catonsville for 11 years, so she’s had to euthanize many pets in an emergency setting, but administering the service in homes is a real change.

“The main one is that people are more ready,” she said. “No one’s ever ready — but at the emergency clinic [people come in] with a sick animal, and I have to explain this isn’t going to get better and they have to make a decision quickly versus when people call Peaceful Passage; they know it’s close to the time, so they’ve come to terms with what’s going to happen.

“And in a person’s home, the animal is more comfortable,” she added. [The owner is] a lot more comfortable. It’s an honor to be invited into someone’s home and perform the service.”

Jacqueline Orwig, 59, in Rosedale, had to put down her Lhasa Apso, Sammy, 13, in June and then her 15-year-old Dalmatian, Pepper, only six months later. Pepper had been with Orwig since she was an 8-week-old puppy.

“I knew old age was getting to her,” Orwig said of Pepper, who suffered from hearing and vision loss, arthritis and a heart murmur. “But she was still eating. It was hard for me to figure out when was a good time to let her go. Because we had her for so long — I always called her the daughter I never had — I didn’t want to take her to a cold table” when it was time to put her down.

She contacted Rabinowitz for help with both dogs, and both died peacefully in Orwig’s arms in their favorite bedroom spot.

“I was really pleased with her professionalism and compassion,” Orwig said, adding, “I think she’s got to be a heck of a strong lady to do something like this. After Sammy passed and it was all said and done, I looked at her and asked, ‘How do you do this?’”

“It’s extremely comforting to people, they feel so grateful that the service is provided,” Rabinowitz said. “They feel a lot more control over how the pet passes and how they want the  experience to be. They’re able to grieve and cry out loud, hold their pet and carry them out (afterwards) to my vehicle if they want. They’re able to be a lot more active in their pet’s passing.”

Rabinowitz explained that pets are very aware of the presence of a doctor or a stranger during vet visits, and “so many times I hear a pet is terrified to go to the vet; they’re nervous and shake. “But in the home setting, they treat us just like another guest.”

Prices for all of the services are on the Peaceful Passage website and range from $250 for euthanasia alone to $320 for euthanasia and removal for a pet up to 50 pounds to $360 for euthanasia, removal and individual cremation, which also includes a hand-carved hardwood chest and custom nameplate for a pet less than 50 pounds.

Fees vary depending upon the size of the pet, and there is a surcharge if travel is required outside Baltimore County. Travel information is listed on its website, peacefulpassage.net.

“I truly have enjoyed working with [Rabinowitz], and I’m so glad that she created this. It’s so important, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” White-Mfoudi said. “It’s an important service; we’re truly blessed to help people, and we truly care about every person and pet we encounter.”

“I get beautiful thank-you notes,” added Rabinowtiz. “It makes me feel good to help others, to see the relief. Most of them are going to have  a positive memory [of their pet’s] passing.”

mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

Having Their Say Jews from across Maryland weigh in onupcoming presidential race

(istockphoto.com/RonTech2000)

(istockphoto.com/RonTech2000)

With a month until the Iowa caucuses, the 2016 presidential election is heating up and Jews from the Baltimore-Washington region are pouring their hearts, minds and dollars into the race.

The field of candidates currently stands at three Democrats and 13 Republicans vying for their respective parties’ nomination. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has a sizable network in Maryland that includes a number of prominent Jewish donors such as Matthew Gorman and Gary Gensler, both of whom supported her in 2008 and were part of former President Bill Clinton’s administration. Also in the donor mix is Michael Bronfein, a Baltimore venture capitalist who created a stir in 2002, according to The Baltimore Sun, when he recommended donors refrain from giving to then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s re-election effort in order to preserve funds for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a candidate for governor that year. O’Malley, who won re-election and went on to win the governor’s mansion in 2006, sits far behind Clinton in the Democratic presidential race.

Scott Sokol, co-chair of Baltimore County’s Hillary for President chapter, said he feels the campaign is going “amazingly well.”

“We’ve been all over the county going to various clubs and taking part in activities,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any area of the Democratic populace that we’re not very strong in.”

Sokol has worked in a number of campaigns over the years, including President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and primary victory over Clinton, which he said was not a matter of disliking the former first lady, but becoming swept up in Obama’s message of change.

Much of Clinton’s  criticism is from “people looking  for ways to knock her down. — Scott Sokol, co-chair of Baltimore County’s Hillary for President chapter

In this year’s race, Clinton has been criticized for her use of a private email server to conduct official business as secretary of state as well as her ties to Wall Street and big business. Sokol thinks much of the criticism is from “people looking for ways to knock her down.”

“She has explained what has happened in a truthful manner, and people are out to get her,” he said regarding the email scandal, which Clinton attributed to unclear policies at the State Department regarding the use of private email for official business.

Sokol added that he does not believe Clinton is being supported by corporations any more than individual donors.

“A significant amount of donations are from people like me and you,” he said in a statement that supporters of O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Jewish self-described “democratic socialist” who sits at second place in the Democratic race, dispute.

When asked about the other campaigns, Sokol said he respects O’Malley and has supported him for governor in the past but feels his national appeal is lacking.

“Right now, I don’t think he has the force to run a presidential campaign here in Maryland,” he said.

To be sure, O’Malley has received very little attention in the race, a fact that surprises Izzy Patoka, who served as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives during O’Malley’s eight years in office. He also worked for O’Malley from 2001 to 2007 when the presidential candidate was mayor of Baltimore.

“To me it’s baffling that those are his poll numbers, because I can tell you he’s the hardest working person I’ve ever met and extremely thoughtful on issues that are important,” said Patoka.

As governor, O’Malley  maintained  dialogue with  organizations  such as the  Baltimore Jewish Council.

Patoka said O’Malley had an “outstanding” relationship with the Jewish community during his time as governor. O’Malley allotted $26 million for Jewish community facility improvements and maintained dialogue with organizations such as the Baltimore Jewish Council and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

O’Malley has visited Israel on three occasions and formed a close bond with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when both were mayors. He has also spoken out on issues such as the Gaza war in 2008, when he condemned Hamas for its attacks on Israel, and supported the Iran nuclear deal reached in the fall. (Clinton has also visited Israel and criticized Hamas and supported the Iran deal.)

O’Malley has received both praise and criticism from the local community for his leadership as mayor, a tenure that saw an overall reduction in crime but an increase in the number of arrests due to “zero tolerance” policing tactics that some believe have contributed to the racial and economic disparities in the city.

Sanders is a ‘near perfect example as to what a good Jews is, which is to be a good human being.’ — Dan Segal of North Potomac

“I don’t think it’s fair to tie what’s occurring currently in Baltimore to the policies Martin O’Malley instituted during his time as mayor,” Patoka said. “In fact, what I saw was during the 1990s, Baltimore was averaging over 300 homicides per year.”

Sokol said he understands the split in the party that has seen younger, more progressive Democrats support Sanders. He said Sanders’ campaign reminds him of George McGovern’s presidential run in 1972, which he supported as a young man.

“It is sort of their way of looking toward the future and grasping on to that, and they feel Bernie has been able to reach that,” Sokol said.

Cruz is not far  behind Trump  with support  of 24 percent  of likely voters.

Despite serving in Congress for the last 25 years, Sanders, the only Jewish candidate running for a major party nomination — Jill Stein is running for the presidency on the Green Party ticket — was not particularly well known to the public until his campaign launched last summer. Leah Miller, an IT consultant in Washington who is working as a grassroots organizer for Sanders’ campaign, said she first got to know the senator at a town hall meeting at Howard University in February. She was one of only 15 attendees.

At 32, Miller is like many millennials who have become encouraged by Sanders’ focus on economic inequality and his decision to not take any funding from the loosely regulated groups known as super PACs.

“I think Bernie’s been a candidate who’s spoken to me and made me really want to get involved,” she said. “I think he has a great social media presence, and that really is where I have learned a lot about what he is doing.”

Trump has called for a ban on  Muslims entering the country  in response  to the San Bernardino  shootings.

Part of the enthusiasm behind Sanders’ campaign comes from his proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and make college entirely tuition free. Miller said she thinks this is realistic.

“He’s broken down the funding to what that would cost and how much we’re spending on other things such as [the] military,” she said.

Miller, who supported Obama in 2008, added that if Clinton wins the nomination, she will get behind her.

Sanders’ campaign came under scrutiny on Dec. 17 when staffer Josh Uretsky was fired for accessing data from Clinton’s campaign that is part of a database provided by the Democratic National Committee and serviced by an outside organization.

“That behavior is unacceptable to the Sanders campaign, and we fired the staffer immediately and made certain that any information obtained was not utilized,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a press release.

Jewish  Republicans  are definitely  growing. — Ruth Goetz of Pikesville

The DNC initially locked the Sanders campaign out of the database, which it typically uses for its own voter outreach. After Sanders’ team threatened to sue, the DNC relented.

“That was a terrible setback to the campaign. I cannot believe [the DNC] did that,” said Dan Segal of North Potomac. “Every hour is critical.”

Segal, who is an active member of MoCo4Bernie, a Montgomery County grassroots organization, describes Sanders as a “near perfect example as to what a good Jew is, which is to be a good human being.

“It’s not so much as going into a synagogue to pray as to living the right way and making the right decision when presented with certain choices,” added Segal, who attends Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase. “Bernie Sanders is one of the most sensitive people there is and has been a champion for the people, for workers.”

Segal has been a Sanders fan for quite some time. In 2014, he set up a Facebook page with the goal of drafting Sanders to run in this election.

 The Republican candidates for  president have proven to be largely treif  to the Jewish  community. — Greg Rosenbaum, chair of National Jewish Democratic Committee

Though Clinton and her ex-president husband have “incredible connections,” as well as the backing of major unions, Segal still likes Sanders’ odds.

“Although Hillary and Bill have incredible connections with the banks doesn’t mean they’re going to get the employees of those banks. It doesn’t mean that because Hillary has the large union leaders, so to speak, in her pocket [that the union members will vote her way],” said Segal.

Locally, Segal sees support for Bernie growing. At the Montgomery County Fair this summer, he estimated that a couple hundred supporters signed up to volunteer for the campaign, including Republicans. Segal believes Sanders’ fight against income inequality is what has attracted volunteers from all walks of life.

Sanders’ personal story mirrors Segal’s story too. Segal’s parents spent six years in displaced persons camps in Germany before immigrating to the United States. Sanders’ father’s family perished in the Holocaust.

“Having a president who understands the struggle that people go through to get here, to me is a very Jewish experience,” said Segal. “There’s not one person here who takes the hard road in order to get here who is not at a loss. They had to leave family members behind. In some cases they’re coming here merely to find a job at the lowest end of the economy and better their families. And what’s more Jewish than that? It’s called being a mensch.”

Overall, Democratic support from the Jewish community has typically been strong, but according to a Gallup poll taken last year, the percentage of Jews who identify as Democrats had fallen from 71 percent in 2008 to 61 percent in 2014.

Rudy Stoler, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said he thinks the increasing number of Republican Jews can be attributed to Obama’s stances on U.S. policy in the Middle East, particularly the nuclear deal with Iran that conservatives have criticized as anti-Israel.

“Just looking at the way the votes have gone since 2010 in Pikesville, the numbers for Republican candidates have boomed,” said Stoler.

Baltimore County has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold; Obama won 57 percent of the vote there in 2012, but in the gubernatorial race two years later the numbers flipped with Republican Larry Hogan winning almost 60 percent of the vote.

Stoler grew up in Baltimore and attended Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School before earning a degree in international relations from Goucher College, where he served as chair of Goucher Republicans and Libertarians. He has worked on several campaigns, including Hogan’s in 2014, and ran unsuccessfully for the Baltimore County Council’s 2nd District seat that year.

Stoler said he will support whichever candidate receives the Republican nomination but is watching Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as Dr. Ben Carson. He said his political ideology is rooted in what he calls “conservative constitutional Torah,” or a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

“I would like to see less regulations in government. I would like to see a candidate who has upheld the Constitution,” he said. “I see it as quite similar as why we need to maintain the Torah.”

Carson, a former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, has made controversial comments in the past, including one in October when he suggested the Holocaust could have been avoided had the victims been armed with guns. Stoler said he did not agree with Carson’s comparison of gun control to Nazi Germany, but defended his assertion that restrictions on firearms are symptomatic of a totalitarian state.

“The Second Amendment is designed in part to protect the American people from totalitarianism, to enable us to defend ourselves against tyrants,” he said. “‘Bear arms’ is a privilege that has not been granted to Jews many times throughout history other than in our own state. The fact that it is a civil right in the USA is a point of liberation for American Jewry.”

Businessman Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican field with 28 percent of likely voters nationally, but Cruz is not far behind with 24 percent in a Dec. 22 Quinnipiac University poll. Many of Trump’s supporters, including Pikesville’s Ruth Goetz, feel that his knack for stirring the pot makes him an ideal candidate and a good alternative to the political establishment.

“I think he’s brilliant because he’s always in the news,” she said. “They keep trying to take him down, and he’s staying on top.”

Of Trump’s many proposals, the one receiving the most heat is his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country in response to the San Bernardino shootings on Dec. 2 that killed 14. Several candidates, including Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, condemned the comments during the Republican debate on Dec. 15. Cruz said he understood the sentiment but said the focus should be on “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Goetz has worked with the Carson and Cruz campaigns, but said she plans to support Trump if he is the nominee. She feels it is important to “keep a Judeo-Christian culture at the forefront,” and that Trump is correct in calling for the ban because she is concerned about “civilization jihad” in addition to “violent jihad.”

“The job of the president is to protect our country,” she said. “He said it would be temporary, and currently there is a lot of Muslim terrorism around the world.”

Goetz, who also sits on the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said examples of “civilization jihad” can be seen at both the local and the national level.

“We’ve seen it in Montgomery County,” she said. “They demanded from the school board to have a day off for a Muslim holiday. And now the school board has given in to the Muslims.”

(The school board voted in November to rearrange its calendar so that Montgomery County Public Schools will be closed the day after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in 2016. This went against the recommendation of Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers, who wrote in a memo that the absentee rates for staff and students during this year’s Eid Al-Adha observance “was not significantly different than absentee rates on other school days.”)

Goetz said she has lived in Baltimore for more than 25 years and grew up in Prince George’s County. She became involved in politics in 2000 when she began working for the Zionist Organization of America during the second intifada in Israel. She said national security and immigration are the issues most important to her in the election. She agreed with Stoler’s assessment that the number of Jewish Republicans is on the rise.

“Jewish Republicans are definitely growing, and as I talk with people, more and more people are saying I’m registering as a Democrat but I vote Republican,” she said.

Pikesville native Melanie Harris, who chairs the Baltimore Area Young Republicans Club and supports Cruz, said foreign policy is also the most important issue for her in the election.

“It does seem that the biggest part of the debate is how to get [the Islamic State] under control,” she said.

“I’m extremely upset about it. When I meet Jews who don’t seem to be concerned about what’s going on it really bothers me. I don’t understand that.”

Unlike the others, Harris said she does not believe the number of Republican Jews is growing and pointed out that her synagogue, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, is mostly Democratic.

She said, “With them I’m especially outnumbered.”

That’s in line with the findings of the National Jewish Democratic Committee. Before the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential candidate forum earlier this month, the NJDC released a statement from its chair, Greg Rosenbaum of Bethesda, touting American Jews’ liberal leanings.

Said Rosenbaum, “For generations, Jews have been drawn to the Democratic Party’s message of inclusion. We already knew that 70 percent of American Jews favor the Democratic Party and a mere 22 percent identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.

“The Republican candidates for president have proven to be largely treif to the Jewish community.”

Harold Diamond of Rockville, who represents the 19th state legislative district on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, said that the prospects of the Democratic nominee winning were “excellent.”

“The policy of the [Democratic] Party is significantly better for the population and for the Jewish people, as well, overall,” he said.

“There’s been an openness in the Democratic Party for minorities. … If you look at what the Republicans are trying to repeal, all the civil rights priorities have been pushed by Democrats.”

Though he leans toward Sanders, as a self-described “party Democrat” he plans to vote for the party’s nominee. Still, Diamond would like to see all three Democratic candidates stay in the race through the convention this summer.

“I don’t think the Republicans should de facto pick the Democratic Party’s nominee and take pot shots at Hillary,” said Diamond. “The better debate is between Hillary, Sanders and O’Malley.”

Melissa Apter contributed to this report.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

The Transformation of Pikesville High School already reaping benefits of renovations as construction continues

John Boelker, superintendent with Oak Contracting, walks through the construction of what will become Pikesville High School’s new front entrance. (Mark Shapiro)

John Boelker, superintendent with Oak Contracting, walks through the construction of what will become Pikesville High School’s new front entrance. (Mark Shapiro)

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, new Pikesville High School principal Sandra Reid led a group of county and state officials and PTSA representatives through some brand-new parts of the school.

The hallways were bright from natural light, the computers and technology in classrooms were new, and there was excitement and hope in the air.

“I feel like I’m recipient of a gift,” Reid said. “It just has changed the  climate of the whole building.”

The school is in the midst of a $49 million renovation that essentially gutted the entire school to make way for upgrades including a new HVAC system — the school was previously un-air-conditioned — a new roof,  accessibility upgrades, new classrooms, new technology and a renovated  auditorium with new flooring, lighting and acoustic upgrades, a new sound system and a handicap-accessible stage. The project started a year-and-a-half ago.

“We gutted it completely,” said Jonathan Goetz, project manager with Oak Contracting. “The courtyard is gone, it’s now new classroom space. The old science wing, which sat up here on the hill, [it was] completely leveled. We put in two new science-wing additions as well. … Our second-floor wing here is all newly renovated classrooms.”

Construction is underway for the new portico and administrative  offices, which should be done by the end of January, ahead of schedule.

“Finally we will finish with the  auditorium and the back corner of the building — which was the old tech-ed wing — which will have  tech-ed, digital and multimedia art as well as the gymnasium,” Goetz added.

The whole project should be  finished in August, in time for the 2016-2017 school year.

Among those touring the school were Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Del. Shelly Hettleman, a representative of Del. Dana Stein’s office, PTSA president Casey Parson and vice president of membership and fundraising Sherri Flaks.

“It just really is exciting to see how modern this school is, and the energy exudes from everyone within the building,” Kamenetz said after the tour. “Everyone is excited and should be.”

It just has changed the  climate of the whole building. — Principal Sandra Reid

While there is normally a one-to-one match from the state for projects such as this, Baltimore County contributed almost $38 million, 78 percent of the funds, compared with the state’s almost $11 million, 22 percent of the funds. Last year, the county added $4 million to its Fiscal Year 2016 budget to ensure the school would get a complete renovation. Upgrades to the auditorium and other areas may have gotten cut without that additional funding.

Reid was eager to show off the newer parts of her school, first stopping at a new science classroom, the sight of which, she said, made a first-year teacher cry from excitement. She took the tour to an Interactive Media Production (IMP) room, which had a green screen, lighting and camera equipment. The “quasi-magnet,” as Reid called it, produces PR materials for the school as well as various shows and presentations.

“It’s definitely made a big impact on me,” senior Jillian Offermann said. The IMP program, in which she makes movies, posters and 3D animation, was a big part of why she chose to attend Pikesville over another area school.

Added senior Amalya Murrill: “The skills you learn in this class can transcend making cool stuff.” Both she and Offermann are members of the National Technical Honor Society.

While walking around the school, Reid pointed out the library’s new computer labs and the school’s new career center, where students can  research colleges. Before taking the group outside to where the new  entrance and offices are under  construction, she stopped in the cafeteria, which was enlarged, and now has new furniture and glass walls all around.

In addition to a new school,  Parson, the PTSA president, said the school community owes a lot to its new principal, who has expanded after-school clubs and brought back school spirit events that hadn’t been held in years.

“Pikesville’s just rising to incredible highs,” said Parson, who took her kids out of private school to send them to Pikesville. “The students are so excited coming in. They just come in here and they have a whole new feeling.”

Hettleman, who graduated from Pikesville in 1982, said the renovations were “transformational.”

“The community has this wonderful gem now right in the midst of it,  and it’s a great bridge between the students, parents and the local community,” she said, “and it’s just going to be a great magnet for families.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

On Your Mark! D.C., Md., Va. residents take part in Pan-American Maccabi Games

Mitchell Berliner is competing in freestyle swimming in the Pan American Maccabi Games in Chile. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Berliner)

Mitchell Berliner is competing in freestyle swimming in the Pan American Maccabi Games in Chile. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Berliner)

At 67, Mitchell Berliner considers himself in pretty good shape. So on a whim, the  Potomac resident picked up the phone and called the people running the Pan American Maccabi Games to see if he might be able to qualify for the swim team.

“I wanted to find out what times I needed”  to qualify, he said. But after the person answering the phone asked him how old he was, Berliner  immediately was told, “OK, you are on the team.”

Berliner, along with 36 other athletes and coaches from the Washington area, are participating in the games in Chile, which began Dec. 27 and continue through Jan. 4.

More than 2,500 Jewish athletes from 22 countries are participating. Team USA has 314 athletes on 33 teams and is competing in 14 sports.

Erica Gelb of Baltimore has competed in field hockey at several earlier Maccabi games. She earned bronze medals playing in Australia and Argentina and a silver competing in Israel.

This time, she is the assistant coach of the women’s field hockey team; two of her cousins,  Allison and Emily Weiner of Lutherville, are on the team. The women’s team met for the first time when they arrived in Chile and began practicing only after that.

“It works out,” she said. “Obviously we are there to win medals, but it’s about more than that.

More than 30 people from the area are participating in the Pan American  Maccabi Games.

“It’s really nice to be able to be surrounded by all these athletes and all these Jews,” added Gelb, who plays hockey once a week for most of the year through the Baltimore Field Hockey Association, an adult coed league.

Lou Moyerman, general chairman, said the 13th Pan American games are designed to “build Jewish pride through sports as well as through three community service projects, including a food drive, hospital visits and free eye examinations and glasses for more than 1,000 Chilean children.”

Berliner, who is swimming freestyle in the masters division, already has experienced that pride. He and his wife, Debra Moser, hosted three young athletes from California during previous Maccabi games.

“We had a ball,” he said. Moser also went to Chile and is photographing athletes from the Maryland area.

Berliner, who is a member of Washington Hebrew Congregation, swam competitively in the eighth grade. But once he realized he was on the team, Berliner hired a coach to help him improve his speed.

That coach told him, “I am swimming wrong. I had my head wrong. I had my arms wrong,” he said. “I just swam to stay healthy” and wasn’t aware of the best way to move through the water.

Two months before going to Chile, Berliner learned how to do a racing dive off the blocks, he said.

He is aware he probably will be swimming with athletes who have stayed competitive throughout their lives. He’s also aware that some of the other sports, golf in particular, are harder to get on the team at his age. No matter, he said, he’s going to give it his best shot.

“My goal,” he joked, “is not to have a heart  attack or embarrass myself.”


 

Area participants include:
• Michael April, Rockville, team doctor • Veronica Binstock, Severna Park, “women’s gymnastics • Lawrence Block, Boyds, men’s soccer • Benjamin Charles, Arlington, Va., swimming • Noah Desman, Clifton, swimming • Joshua Hart, Washington, golf • Benjamin Harteimer, Washington,  men’s soccer • Ori Hoffer, Arlington, Va., men’s soccer • Douglas Homer, Falls Church, Va., men’s soccer • Mara Kaplan, Potomac, swimming • Jake Kaplan, Leesburg, Va., men’s volleyball • Bryan Knapp, Washington, men’s basketball • Samantha Knapp, Washington,  women’s soccer • Aaron Krens, Olney, men’s basketball • Robert Kutner, Lutherville, tennis • Paul Loube, Gaithersburg, men’s basketball • Richard Loube, Gaithersburg, men’s basketball • Douglas Markoff, Germantown, swimming • David Ostroff, Arlington, Va., men’s basketball • Brandon Robinson, Bethesda, men’s  basketball • Steven Roomberg, Germantown, judo • Samuel Roytman, Fairfax, Va., men’s soccer • Alexander Rubin, Rockville, men’s basketball • Gary Sandler, Clarksville, men’s basketball • Casey Skvorc, Rockville, accommodations manager • Eli Smolen, Fairfax, Va., men’s soccer • Sarah Soloman, Rockville, swimming • Aaron Struminger, Elkton, trainer • Claire Trilling, Chevy Chase, women’s  field hockey • Julie Tucker, Silver Spring, trainer • McKenna Witlin, Herndon, Va., swimming • Jaycee Yegher, Germantown, swimming • Mitchell Zack, Silver Spring, men’s  basketball

spollak@midatlanticmedia.com

Wayne Stephen Young, Killer of 11-Year-Old Girl, Dead at 70

The man who was found guilty in the 1969 killing of 11-year-old Esther Lebowitz, Wayne Stephen Young, died on Dec. 21.

Young, who was 70, died of heart failure at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said Gerry Shields, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. He was being held at the Jessup Correctional Institution.

He was found guilty of killing Lebowitz, who was a student at Bais Yaakov School for Girls, in 1972. She was last seen after being off at the end of a school day at a local drug store. Her body was found three days later in a ditch not far from her Mount Washington home. Young confessed the killing to an officer.

Young was set to have his conviction vacated and face a new trial based on the “Unger ruling,” which concludes that incorrect jury instructions administered in courtrooms may have led to unfair trials. A Maryland Special Court of Appeals opinion in another case made way for new trials in several cases. Young’s new trial had not been scheduled yet, his attorney Erica Suter said.

Young’s case sent shockwaves through Baltimore’s Jewish community in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and many in the community say emotions from the incident are still raw.

Neil Schachter, president of Northwest Citizens Patrol, said he’s certainly not happy when anyone dies, but is glad there won’t be a new trial.

“We’re very happy that he will never get out of prison because he certainly doesn’t deserve to get out of prison for the murder that he did and how he did it,” Schachter said.

Forensic Necessities Increase in crime-lab staff is music to the ears of many in Northwest Baltimore

Lab

(Istockphoto/ncognet0)

The announcement on Dec. 7 by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake that her administration would be spending almost $347,000 to hire 10 additional staff members to the police department’s crime lab is being praised by a number of concerned Jews in the city’s Northwestern District.

The increased spending on forensic resources is the first in four decades, according to a communication between crime lab director Steve O’Dell and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who is running to replace District 5 councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector next year. Schleifer addressed Rawlings-Blake at a community meeting Aug. 9 hosted by the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association in response to a series of home and car break-ins.

“The response has never in 40 years been, let’s increase the crime lab resources,” he said. “We’re talking about a division that’s been largely ignored for a very long time.”

Schleifer said he learned about the importance of forensic evidence through courses he took in high school and believes his suggestion at the meeting was what spurred her to action.

“It all came from me,” he said. “Nobody else really knew what the crime lab was.”

In her comments on Dec. 7, Rawlings-Blake made reference to her meetings around the city that have come on the heels of one of the deadliest years in Baltimore’s recent history that has included more than 300 homicides.

“In many of my conversations in different neighborhoods, I have been hearing concerns about delays in crime lab response time,” she said. For people who have been victimized by crimes, lengthy delays to wait around the crime lab are unacceptable.”

The mayor’s spokesman, Howard Libit, said the loudest voices in the fight against crime have come from those whose property has been burglarized as a result of an overburdened police department.

“If their priority has been responding to homicides and serious shootings, the wait time for responding to robberies has been much longer,” he said. “It clearly highlighted the need. Seeing 15,000 demands for service for the crime lab demonstrates the urgency for these additional resources this year.”

Libit downplayed the notion that Schleifer’s comments were the sole motivating factor in Rawlings-Blake’s decision.

If their priority has been responding to homicides and serious shootings, the wait time for responding to robberies has been much longer. It’s clearly highlighted the need. Seeing 15,000 demands for service for the crime lab demonstrates the urgency for these additional resources this year.”

— Howard Libit

“The mayor has heard this from a number of different constituent groups across the city,” he said. “I wouldn’t highlight one as having greater impact than the other.”

Among those in the room when Schleifer made his suggestion was Ronnie Rosenbluth, a member of the volunteer police organization Shomrim. Rosenbluth said he understands the burden placed on the police as a result of this year’s events.

“There was a lull in crime for a couple weeks, and then it spiked up again. I think the police just don’t have the manpower to deal with it,” he said. “I think the police are doing the best they can do at this point. I imagine morale’s not at its highest,” he said, referring to the trial of Officer William Porter and the upcoming trials of five other officers charged in the police custody death of Freddie Gray. “We’re not going to get a whole lot of extra attention because we’re complaining that our cars are being broken into.”

Rosenbluth said he thinks it might be helpful for people in organizations such as Shomrim to become trained in the field of forensics in order to lessen the load of the main crime lab.

“There’s so many groups in the community, if some of the guys get trained, if there’s a crime scene they can learn how to deal with it,” he said.

Nate Willner, also a member of Shomrim, said he feels the concerns of Cheswolde and surrounding neighborhoods are finally being listened to and acted on.

“That is an area where a very small amount of money can have a huge impact,” he said of the lab. “These 10 additional jobs will pay back the city fivefold in the fight against crime.”

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Temple Emanuel May Become Part of Baltimore Hebrew Synagogues discussing BHC absorbing Temple Emanuel members

Temple Emanuel Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman elected not to renew her contract, which expires on June 30, 2016.

Temple Emanuel Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman elected not to renew her contract, which expires on June 30, 2016.

One of Baltimore’s Reform congregations may absorb another as Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Temple Emanuel are in talks about Temple Emanuel becoming part of BHC.

While nothing is finalized yet, Temple Emanuel president David Beller said that Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman elected not to renew her contract, which expires on June 30, 2016.

“We have concluded that the challenges [of] remaining a small independent congregation continue to be significant,” Beller said via email.

A press release said the congregations have engaged in “substantive discussions.” BHC Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen said the congregation will welcome members of Temple Emanuel to become a part of Baltimore Hebrew.

“The goal for Baltimore Hebrew’s side of the conversation is to absolutely help maintain the legacy of Temple Emanuel and to integrate Temple Emanuel into Baltimore Hebrew as best as we can, but for Baltimore Hebrew, we’re going to be maintaining our congregational identity and integrating where possible,” she said. “What I can say with certainty is that while nothing is finalized, everyone on both sides of the conversation feels good about the process of working out the arrangements. It’s been very amicable and friendly.”

Part of that integration includes Temple Emanuel’s sacred objects, the details of which Sachs-Kohen said are still being worked out.

There will be initial representation of Temple Emanuel leaders on BHC’s board, and BHC will maintain its lay leadership, clergy, staff, traditions and building, the press release said.

“We’ve had wonderful discussions and we’re moving forward,” said BHC president Martha Weiman. “Stay tuned.”

Temple Emanuel, which sold its Reisterstown building in June and started renting space at Beth Israel Congregation in Owings Mills in July, originally planned to build its own sanctuary at Beth Israel. Randi Buergenthal, Beth Israel’s president, said the congregations have an amicable arrangement.

“We have a very good relationship with Temple Emanuel. We certainly understand that they need to do what’s best for their congregation,” she said. “We have a lease arrangement with them and both of us will be honoring the terms of the lease. And that’s really it.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com