Young Blood, Big Stories Up-and-coming reporter tackles the national scene

Baltimore native Evan Lambert, 26, may be a young reporter, but that hasn’t stopped him from covering stories such as the Trayvon Martin case and the execution of the D.C. shooter John Allen Muhammad.

In June, Lambert took a reporter position at WTVT FOX 13 in Tampa, Fla.

“I just needed a change after three years [at WKMG in Orlando, Fla.] and a new challenge,” said Lambert. “This opportunity kind of just fell in my lap.”

The work he did for WKMG made an impression on his co-workers and superiors.

Evan Lambert (Provided)

Evan Lambert (Provided)

“Evan is a compassionate individual who wears his heart on his sleeve, is aggressive in gathering information and takes his job seriously,” said Allison McGinley, one of Lambert’s former supervisors at WKMG.

Lambert said the first time he felt compelled to pursue journalism was after he watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001 unfold.

“I knew, [after 9/11], I wanted to be there to witness events and inform other people,” said Lambert.

Lambert, who grew up in Owings Mills, recalled as a child his mother always had the local news on the television. Aside from being fascinated with the reporters, he already had experience talking to unfamiliar people from attending Camp Airy, an all-boys Jewish sleep-away camp.

“At sleep-away camp, you learn how to interact with people in close quarters,” said Lambert. “As a reporter, I’m always meeting new people and a lot of the time on their best or worst day.”

His ability to interact with people on their bad days not only helped him on the job, but was noticed by his co-workers.

“I consider him one of my best friends,” said Alex Holley, a former colleague from WMBF in Myrtle Beach, S. C. “Whenever we had a rough day we’d run into an edit bay, because they’re soundproofed, and we’d just vent to each other.”

Although Holley worked different shifts than Lambert, they became friends quickly because they shared the difficulties of being new reporters.

“His day ended as mine was starting, and he was always willing to stay late to hear me vent,” said Holley.

Lambert remains friends with Holley and those he met at Camp Airy, which he attended until he was 21. Although he said he’s not particularly religious, learning to interact with people would help Lambert later on in college and his career when he’d develop a tie to the Jewish community.

When Lambert began attending University of Maryland, College Park, he connected with Kol Sasson, a Jewish a cappella group. Although he never intended to join, he hit it off with the other members quickly and was accepted after auditioning.

“I was always performing in musicals and plays,” said Lambert. “In news, there is an element of performance.”

Between Camp Airy and Kol Sasson, Lambert had a perfect combination of experience and personality to keep pursuing his desire to be on air. In 2009, when he was working on the university’s newscast, John Allen Muhammad, who shot and killed several people in 2002, was scheduled to be executed. Lambert recalled the concern of people in Baltimore when Muhammad was loose.

“During the shootings, everyone was in a state of panic,” said Lambert. “I was afraid that someone was going to come [to Baltimore] and start shooting people.”

In Nov. 2009, Lambert traveled to Virginia, where Muhammad was being held. He recalled standing in a pressroom with other reporters, many from national publications. Only two members of the media were chosen to witness the execution firsthand, and the scene was described at a news conference after the fact. Lambert didn’t expect to be chosen, but he said he wouldn’t have wanted to see the execution even if he was offered the chance.

“It was one of the first major news events I covered,” said Lambert. “It solidified that I wanted to [pursue journalism.]”

More major stories, such as the Trayvon Martin case, would come when he landed his job in Orlando after two years reporting in South Carolina.

Lambert moved to Orlando shortly after Martin was killed. When the verdict for the case was given, his news station had “all hands on deck.” He ended up coming into work two-and-a-half hours early that night.

“We didn’t know how people would react to it; if there was going to be riots or any kind of violence,” said Lambert.

Although there was no violence where Lambert was located, the case, which garnered national attention, was a sensitive issue for the community, and local media had to tread lightly.

“It was a divisive story for our community and very difficult to report,” said McGinley. “We had to make sure we had all sides and cover it as a whole to help our viewers understand its impact on the community.”

Covering stories such as Trayvon Martin and the D.C. shooter may not always be easy, but Lambert has remained driven to make an impact.

“He was always good at being positive. He’d say, ‘What we say in here, stays in here. We just have to stay positive and keep going,’” said Holley referring to their time venting to each other in the edit bay.

Lambert said he is grateful for the opportunities he’s had, especially the ones in Tampa.

“Television journalism is difficult, and there are not a lot of people who can graduate and just go on-air,” said Lambert. “What I’ve found at my new job, they care more about good journalism rather than just the biggest crime.”

“I’m really excited for him and wish him all the best,” said McGinley. “I think he’s turning into a solid reporter who will do great things in the future.”

A Time to Act Thousands in Jewish community speak out in opposition to Iran nuclear deal

Little more than a week after the Iran nuclear deal agreement was announced and as the details begin to sink into the minds of Americans, many members of the Jewish community are raising their voices in protest and concern.

At Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation, approximately 1,500 congregants and other community members came together at short notice for a Community Gathering for Prayer and Action on July 19, called by the Rabbinical Council of America.

“The rabbis feel that this is a critical moment and requires a communal response of both prayer and action,” said Rabbi Moshe Hauer of BJSZC via email. “If not now, when?”

Speaking to the congregants, Hauer invoked the spirit of Esther, “the original lobbyist/advocate for the Jewish people,” and how she fasted and prayed to prepare herself to stop the Persian king from destroying all of Israel and called upon the Jewish people to act and to do the same — on her behalf and for themselves.

We gather “to make clear that we have learned the lessons of our history, our recent history. We are not here to be comforted but to be awakened, to be stirred to daven and to act,” Hauer said. In order not to leave the praying or lobbying “for the Jewish people in the hands of a few isolated heroes, as we have done in the past, we will all neither sleep nor slumber until we have done all that we can for the sake of the world and for our people.”

Hauer chose to address elected officials directly for much of his sermon as a way to urge community members to raise their voices and do the same.

“And so let us begin today a process … to plead and to lobby and to work to bring this issue to the eyes and hearts of our elected officials, so they can do what they can at this critical moment. And yes, there are many concerns about what exactly can be accomplished — with veto threats and U.N. resolutions and the like — but it is clear, and all those involved agree, that lobbying the Congress is of great importance and what we need to do at this time.”

Lobbying Congress is familiar territory for the Baltimore Jewish Council, which commended President Barack Obama for his diplomatic efforts and willingness to negotiate a deal. However, after sufficient time to review its details, the organization believes the Iran nuclear deal “does not foreclose Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon and, indeed, could lead to highly unstable conditions in the Middle East and around the world.”

N.Y.C. photos by Richard Chaitt and D.C. photos by Melissa Apter

In its four-point written statement, the BJC said it supported the original idea of lifting economic sanctions in exchange for a “true dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program,” but the resulting deal fell quite short of that, it said, by permitting Iran to begin a nuclear program after 10 years.

Because “the extraordinary sums of money currently frozen pursuant to international sanctions will be released and can be expended in further pursuit of Iran’s hegemonic aspirations and its demonstrated desire to wreak global havoc and terror,” the BJC does not support the current deal and asserts that the deal’s incentive for foreign firms to enter into commercial agreements with Iran — along with the ability of Iran’s neighbors to pursue nuclear weapons — could be “disastrous.”

“We should remember the president’s oft-cited remark that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’” continued the statement. “We need to go back to treating Iran like the rogue terrorist nation that it is. We need to present a credible economic and military challenge that will bring about change in Iranian behavior. … We encourage the president to heed the voices of those who are concerned over this agreement and to negotiate a better deal. If the president is right that this is the best deal that he can achieve at this time, and if he is nonetheless unwilling to walk away from it, then Congress should reject the agreement.”


NYC Protest Draws Thousands
An ecumenical, bipartisan crowd numbering more than 10,000 people gathered in New York City’s Times Square on July 22 and included Christians and Jews, Republicans and Democrats, to name just a few of the disparate groups that united in the heart of the city to denounce the proposed United States-led nuclear deal with Iran.

The Stop Iran Rally was coordinated by the Jewish Rapid Response Coalition in partnership with more than 80 other sponsors. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the rally organizer, said he and several other JRRC members put their know-how and connections together to create this event.

He said there are very few Jewish organizations that advocate solely for Jews, and this rally represented standing up for them and for Israel.

Wiesenfeld said the agreements between the U.S. and Iran are essentially a negotiation for surrender, but with hard work from citizens, he thinks the deal can be undone.

“It’s not just enough that they vote for this,” he said. “This must be stopped for the security of the United States, for the future of Israel, for the future of the Jewish people; now is the time for Jews to act.”

Speakers at the rally — including congressmen and Israel advocates — echoed Wiesenfeld’s view of the deal and urged the crowd to contact their members of Congress to vote against the deal.

As the talk of national security was broadcast from the stage, shouted responses rippled through the crowd.

“Kill this deal!” they shouted. “Where is Chuck?” — a reference to New York’s senior senator, Democrat Charles D. Schumer who is seen as a key to its approval. Schumer is Jewish and the heir apparent to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. His decision will go a long way in influencing other Senate Democrats.

Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s Rabbi Jonathan Gross led a sizable delegation at the rally, including a group of students and parents from the BT Dahan Community School.

One student said, “It was great to be a part of something to help Israel, America and the world.” A classmate added, “Today, I really cared about Israel — I felt like I was a part of something.”

The usual throngs of tourists appeared curious but unfazed by the large gathering and still managed to snake their way through the sea of protesters, who enlivened their presence with Israeli and American flags and black-and-white anti-Iran posters.

East Brunswick, N.J., resident Karen Golding-Kushner changed her work schedule so she could attend the rally with her 23-year-old son, Leor Kushner.  “I wanted to make sure there was going to be a sufficient crowd here to make a point,” she said.

Golding-Kushner said she marched against the war in Vietnam and also supported the Soviet Jewry movement. Since then, she said, she hasn’t felt as strongly about an issue of national significance until news of the Iran deal struck.

“I think we’re on the brink of, God forbid, a tragedy,” she said. “And if they’re not stopped, I want to know that I did everything I possibly could.”

Golding-Kushner mentioned to her son on the drive from their home to the rally that one day, he will be able to tell his children that he stood up against Iran and did what he thought was right.


ALSO READ: Most Jewish Federations Find ‘Plethora’ of Opinions on Iran Deal


“Hopefully,” Leor said, “my children will be able to say, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’”

Mandel Bar-David didn’t have to travel as far to get to the rally. But the 22-year-old hates big crowds and often doesn’t go to Manhattan from Crown Heights for that sole reason. Still, he felt compelled to attend this rally.

Bar-David is a Persian Orthodox Jew.

Some of his family still lives in Iran. He said it is wrong that they can’t go outside while wearing a kipah without facing scrutiny.

Bar-David said he connects to this issue as a Jew more than an American citizen or a Persian. He said it hurts him to see other Jews supporting Iran when Israel should be the focus of united support from the community.

“If we lived” in Iran, he asked rhetorically, “would they care for us? Would they be talking about our faith and supporting us? I don’t think so. They’re killing us.”

He said he wanted to stand up for his Jewish pride at the rally and give both Chasidim and Persians a good name.

As the crowd started to pick up again in volume and energy, Bar-David raised his voice as well, cheering “Am Yisrael Chai” three times in a row.

“My family is Persian, but I would never in my life support Iran. I am not Iranian,” he said. “I am Jewish. I am Israeli.”


Cruz vs. Code Pink
The day after thousands of people flooded Times Square to protest the Iran nuclear deal, concerned Washington, D.C.-area residents voiced their objections at a rally across the street from the White House.

Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian group, organized the afternoon protest in Lafayette Park to criticize the deal and shed light on the four Americans being held hostage in Iran. Their protest drew the attendance of the liberal anti-war group Code Pink, who earlier last Thursday cheered Secretary of State John Kerry when he testified before Congress.

A scuffle broke out between members of Code Pink and CWA supporters as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) addressed the 100 or so attendees in the sweltering July sun. Later, a Code Pink supporter attempted to shout down Cruz, prompting the senator to call forward co-founder Medea Benjamin for an impromptu debate.

Responding to Benjamin’s accusations that the senator was engaged in war mongering, Cruz said, “In the midst of this negotiation the Ayatollah Khamenei led thousands of Iranians in chanting ‘Death to America’ while they burned American flags and Israeli flags.

If you want to know what this Iranian deal is, listen to President [Hassan] Rouhani of Iran who said, ‘We got everything we wanted out of this deal,’” Cruz added. “This deal is a complete capitulation by President Obama to radical Islamic theocratic zealots who want to murder millions of Americans.”

The majority Jewish audience cheered Cruz and later Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth. Stern addressed her remarks to Obama.

“Why, Mr. President, have you negotiated away the future of our children and our grandchildren to the world’s leading state sponsor of Islamic terrorism?” she said.

As the protest dragged on past the scheduled one-hour mark, supporters and detractors of the deal splintered off in mostly congenial debates.

Nate Atwell, a Code Pink member, strolled the lawn with Cruz pressing the senator to further explain his stance. Though Atwell said he respected Cruz’s consistency, he rejected the senator’s position regarding the deal.

“I believe it’s a good deal because it’s a step away from war, a step toward peace,” said Atwell, who added that members of Congress have rushed to condemn the deal without adequately reviewing its terms.

Shlomo Bolts of Silver Spring attended the rally while waving a Syrian revolutionary flag. Citing Iran’s engagement in other conflicts in the region, Bolts said he doesn’t trust Iran to follow through on the terms of the deal.

“I think Syria is the best proof that Iran is a bad actor in the world and in the region now,” he said. “They’re not going to moderate their behavior, they’ve only gotten more crazy.”;;

Campers Meet With First Responders City police, fire departments give kids a job demonstration at JCC

About 120 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old from JCC Camp Koolanu got the chance to climb into a fire truck, ring the siren of a police car, see officers on horseback and interact with other members of law enforcement as part of First Responders Appreciation Day.

The event, held July 22 at the Weinberg Park Heights Jewish Community Center, was organized by Northwest Neighborhood liaison Betsy Gardner in conjunction with the Baltimore City Police Department, the Baltimore City Fire Department, the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies. The event serves to educate kids on the importance of first responders in protecting the community.

“They are our friends,” Gardner said. “They are our first line of defense, that they’re here to serve our community and to take care of our community.”

Rabbi Chanina Szendro, the camp’s director, said he’d like to impart the role of first responders with an event he hopes will be held annually.

“I told the campers this morning, these are people who, when you call them and need their help in any sort of desperate situation, they don’t know who you are, but they show up and they’re there to help you,” he said.

Some of the officers at the event were trainees of the Jewish Uniformed Service Association of Maryland — an organization that helps train law enforcement officials in methods of sensitivity toward the Jewish  community. Director Chesky Tenenbaum said he hopes the event sends a message of Ahavas Yisrael, “loving one’s fellow Jew.”

“It’s sort of a thank you for everything that they do for us,” he said. “There’s no greater mitzvah than for someone to put their life on the line to help somebody else.”

Police officers from several units were at the event, including Deputy Sheriff Kenyatta Washington of the department’s domestic violence unit. Washington said his unit travels around the state to do similar events in order to show kids that police officers are on their side.

“The kids are showing us their appreciation, and in return we’re showing them different aspects of what we do … and the different tools that we use in our day-to-day work,” he said.Washington said that level of  appreciation has trickled down within his family.

“I have an 8-year-old son who says he wants to be a police officer, and I ask why,” he said. “And he says because I like helping people and it seems fun, so that’s what I want to do.

”Northwest Deputy Commander Jason Yerg said events like these are important because they open the eyes of kids to public service while embracing the Jewish community.

“It’s kind of symbolic of the community partnership that we’re looking to develop within the Northwest District of the Baltimore Police Department,” he said.

Yerg said community partnerships with the police are important when it comes to combating stereotypes about the police that have developed as a result of the Freddie Gray riots and other violent events in the city.

“People go into law enforcement because they’re looking to keep the juveniles, the youth of our society, safe,” he said. “That’s really what it’s about. The media has kind of taken it off into a tangent, that it’s kind of an us-versus-them mentality. And what we’re looking to do is to re-bridge that gap and to let kids throughout the country, throughout the city, throughout the Northwest District know law enforcement is your friend, and ultimately when you have a problem, we’re here to help.”

Yerg was not the only one at the event who addressed the recent negative attention cast onto police as a result of the riots. Also present were recently appointed Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

Davis said that by holding an event in the Jewish community, he hopes to embrace the diversity in the city’s population.

“It’s important to sustain that in our city, because diversity is our strength,” said Davis. “The government and the police department has to do all it can to recognize the diversity of our city.”

Davis said his promise to kids and their families is to ensure that his department is able to prevent future violence.

“Baltimore has not had a riot since 1968, so 47 years later we had one,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from our experiences. The circumstances surrounding that unrest — and those riots in particular — and the property damage, the police officers being hurt and the business centers being hurt, that’s not going to happen again.”

Young, who has two daughters and two grandchildren, said first responders are “part of the very fabric of the city,” and he wants kids to understand that most police officers have good intentions.

“I say we’ve got bad in everything,” he said. “There are bad politicians, there are bad people in our city who commit crimes. There’s bad in everything, but we can’t hold the whole department or the whole society
[responsible] for a few bad apples. There’s more good than there is bad. And that’s what I tell my own kids.”

Camp Fare Summer camps and Israel, what should be taught?

Gan Israel campers happily pose for a photo by the “kotel.”

Gan Israel campers happily pose for a photo by the “kotel.”

Israel is frequently at the heart of Jewish camping. Children return home with additional Hebrew vocabulary they learned from their favorite Israeli counselors and are quick to show off new Israeli dance steps. But how do summer camps teach the more controversial side of the Jewish state — Israeli history, geography and politics?

For the youngest campers the ins and outs of the two-state solution aren’t typically incorporated into the camp day.

Chaya Wolvovsky, camp director of Camp Gan Israel in Silver Spring, said her campers, girls and boys ages 2 to 11, celebrate Israeli culture with activities like Israel Day, where campers dress in blue and white, write notes to place on a paper Kotel, drink Israeli-style chocolate milk and learn Israeli dancing. Café Gan is three-day-a-week Israeli and Judaic focused “funshop,” which reinforces a connection to Israel that many of the campers already possess, she said.

The politics of Israel and the ongoing conflict are not on the café’s menu.

“They’re young … our goal is our children should realize that Israel is our home, Israel is our holy place,” said Wolvovsky.

At Camp Milldale in Baltimore, the Israeli flag is raised daily and Israeli counselors teach about their native culture. There isn’t much discussion of maps — the only one Amy Bram, camp director, puts up is a kitschy map with camels. The elementary school-age campers are taught to have a positive relationship to Israel, which again, doesn’t delve deeply into the conflict.

But the counselors, the majority of whom are in high school and college, do have a dialogue about Israel, said Bram.

Last summer, as rocket fire rained down on Israel, the Israeli counselors checked in with the news to make sure their loved ones were safe. Thus began a tradition of sharing Israeli news items. The counselors discuss the importance of news sources and compare how Israeli news outlets report events versus how outside media portrays the same events.

The discussions have “no agenda,” Bram stressed. “The agenda is to connect to Israel. We don’t [preach] any party line.”

“What we are teaching is a love of Israel, which is not the same as a love of Israeli politics,” said Bram. In the United States, she tells them, it’s patriotic to voice your views of the government, the same can be true of Israel.

Daily updates on the war between Israel and Hamas were also part of last summer’s experience at Camp Moshava. At the overnight camp at J Street, Israel is felt everywhere. “Mosh,” as it is informally known, is part of the Habonim Dror kibbutz movement. Israeli counselors are on staff, special time is set aside each day to learn about Israel through hands-on activities that include making pita and eating falafel, and Hebrew is incorporated through activities and songs.

As to maps, Executive Director Jen Silber said: “There are lots of different maps from different sources all around camp, which has led to some interesting discussions and comparisons.”

Older campers are prone to asking questions about the conflict. “They are given a nonjudgmental space to talk, and there is lots of room for varying opinions,” she said. “We don’t shy away from the conflict. We give them the space to think critically and analytically.”

Rising 11th-grade students go to Israel and they tend to walk away with more in-depth knowledge. For the high school students, “Israel is more real for them, more personal,” she said.

J Street launched a maps initiative at its annual conference in March, urging its members to bring updated maps delineating the green line into their synagogues and other Jewish communal spaces. Maps without the green line, they wrote to supporters, “are a clear symptom of a larger problem.”

“When the green line disappears from our maps, it also disappears from our consciousness,” the letter titled “Why Maps Matter” read in part. “If we cannot envision the outlines of the two-state solution on our maps, how can we advocate for it?”

Americans for Peace Now likewise advocates for the use of accurate maps. According to Rabbi Alana Suskin, director of strategic communications for APN, the organization offers hard-copy maps that depict the green line and has a much downloaded app called Facts on the Ground: The APN Map Project that tracks settlement activity.

“I remember growing up, you know, those bad people … they want to own all the land from the river to the sea. Look how they draw their maps; they don’t include Israel,” said Suskin. “And yet, we do the same thing” when we don’t draw the green line.

Suskin, whose child attends Camp Ramah, said she understood younger children not delving into the conflict, but she expressed hope that older campers would reflect on what the path to peace might look like, particularly, she said, because they’ll soon be off to college.

She stressed that Jewish young adults need to be prepared.

“They have to know both, that Israel is wonderful and essential to being Jewish, and also know that there are issues,” she said.

“One of the major issues of this conflict is that we have to draw a border,” said Suskin. “People need to see the information, to see it every day that the triangle we like to draw isn’t so simple.”

Robert E. Lee Park to Receive New Name

The Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association, led by Dr. Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, publically asked Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at a news conference on July 21 not to change the name of Robert E. Lee Park to Lake Roland Park.

Cheatham, who has led several different civil rights organizations in the past including a Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, agrees the name should be changed, but he believes changing it to Lake Roland Park is just as bad, if not worse than, leaving it as Robert E. Lee.

“We found it to be a slap in the face,” said Cheatham.

Cheatham noted Roland Park has a history of housing discrimination against African-Americans, Jews and other minorities, which is pointed out in the book “Not in My Neighborhood” written by Antero Pietila. The book describes the discriminatory housing practices used in Baltimore from the 1880s into the 20th century, which was later picked up by other cities.

The push to change the park’s name came from Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who accelerated the process after the tragic shootings in Charleston, S.C.

“The park is centered around historic Lake Roland, and the name Lake Roland Park better reflects this open space treasure,” Kamenetz said in a statement, reported by the Baltimore Sun. “We look forward to making a joint announcement with the city about the name change in the near future.”

In part due to pressure from a petition started on addressed to Rawlings-Blake, Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young has introduced a proposed ordinance to change the name of the park, as reported by the City Paper.

Cheatham has reached out to Rawlings-Blake’s office several times and even recommended Pietila’s book as reference.

“I think the mayor needs to be very careful about who she puts on the committee [that will rename the park],” said Cheatham. “You have a county executive who is about to make a major blunder. This will insult the African-American and Jewish communities.”

Congregation president Russell Margolis of Bolton Street Synagogue, which is located several minutes south of the park, was contacted about the renaming but was unable to comment on the issue.

Cheatham says he would like to see the park named after Maryland-born abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

On June 30, Cheatham and supporters held a news conference in Wyman Park calling for the removal of the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson monument across from the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Maryland Natives Make Aliyah

The Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, carrying 221 new immigrants to Israel this month, included 15 Maryland natives that will now call Israel home.

Aaron May, 38, his wife, Rena, 39 and their children, Hadassah, Ariella and Leora, and also siblings Hilla and Yaniv Singerman are all from  Baltimore. Dovev and Shayna Hefetz and their children Rena, Nili and Moshe are from Silver Spring. Sara Yitzhaky, 24, is from Potomac, Gabriel Samson, 32, is from Bethesda, and Yuval Luger, 17, is moving from Rockville. Other new immigrants moved from 14 states, the District of Columbia and four Canadian provinces.

“The Jewish people were massacred and expelled from other countries for thousands of years,” said Sara Yitzhaky,  who will live in Jerusalem. “We now have a home where we can rejoice, unite and practice our religion freely, and I am proud to be making aliyah and to become a citizen of the Jewish homeland.”

Thirty-two families, including 95 children and 53 singles — 12 of whom will join the Israel Defense Forces — were on board. Some of the new immigrants will move to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael’s Go North and Go South programs.

The flight was facilitated in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA.

Two-thousand new immigrants will arrive in Israel this summer, and an estimated 4,000 newcomers from North America are expected in 2015. Since 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, together with its partners, has assisted 45,000 people to make aliyah to Israel from the U.S., Canada and England. Approximately 90 percent of those have remained in Israel.

“The hundreds of new olim on today’s flight, and the thousands who will be joining them over the course of this year, are the modern-day pioneers helping to build and secure the future of the State of Israel,” said Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “[They] are fulfilling their dreams and the hopes of our nation, by returning to the Jewish homeland.”

Ellicott Mills Student Wins Kaplun Essay Contest

Jacob Witlin receives a certificate from Kaplun Foundation co-chairman Aaron Seligson for his Top 5 finish in the Kaplun essay-writing contest.

Jacob Witlin receives a certificate from Kaplun Foundation co-chairman Aaron Seligson for his Top 5 finish in the Kaplun essay-writing contest.

Jacob Witlin, 14, a student from Ellicott Mills Middle School, was a Top 5 finalist in the 24th annual Kaplun essay contest.

“I was actually quite surprised because I had no idea when I entered that contest that I’d do so well,” said Witlin, who will be attending Mount Hebron High School in the fall. “It was cool to see my essay chosen at the award ceremony.”

In addition to winning a $750 prize, he was also awarded a trip to New York City for a reception, on June 21, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The contest, established by the Morris J. and Betty Kaplun Foundation, had two separate categories: level 1 (grades 7 to 9) and level 2 (grades 10 to 12).

This year’s topic for level 1 asked entrants to write about how their Jewish values can help them make the world a better place.

The foundation sponsors the annual contest to encourage young Jews to treasure their heritage and reflect on the contributions the Jewish people have made to civilization.

Discovery Communications Produces BBYO Recruitment Video

BBYO, in partnership with Discovery Communications, produced a talent recruitment video called “Find Yourself Here: Careers with BBYO,” which was released last month.

Discovery Communications selected BBYO for “Creating Change 2014,” its annual pro-bono initiative that helps nonprofits achieve their goals.

“We’re in the people business, and if we’re going to reach and inspire teens, we need quality professionals who can do that work,” said BBYO CEO Matthew Grossman.

BBYO decided to focus its video on recruitment because of recent growth in the organization. In the last year, BBYO saw a 4 percent growth in membership and an 8 percent growth in programs, which includes leadership training camps, conventions and Israel trips.

“We’re looking for teen magnets. We’re looking for the kind of professionals who really understand how to capture the imagination of teens and how to instill in them the passion of what it means to be a Jew,” Grossman said.

The video features a variety of BBYO employees discussing their jobs and how their ideas can come to life in the work environment. Several, including Grossman, said they “found themselves” at BBYO. He has been CEO for 11 years. He spent about 10 years working in Hillel’s national office prior to that.

“When I came to the organization, I was 33 years old and I was raw,” Grossman said. “I had a lot of growth I needed to go through to be able to lead the organization in the way it deserved to be led, and my trajectory has been adolescence to adulthood and I did find out what it meant to be a leader what it meant to be depended on professionally.”

BBYO has about 100 employees, Grossman said.

The organization also joined Talent Alliance in partnership with Hillel and Moishe House. Talent Alliance was started to advance recruitment, training and retention of talent in each member organization and within the Jewish sector.

Video BBYO’s recruitment video at

Pikesville 5K Hits 15-Year Mark Race draws hundreds, benefits Ulman Cancer Fund

Runners gather at the starting line of the Miles That Matter Pikesville 5K on July 12. The race, which marked its 15th year, raises money for the Ulman Cancer Fund.

Runners gather at the starting line of the Miles That Matter Pikesville 5K on July 12. The race, which marked its 15th year, raises money for the Ulman Cancer Fund.

About 700 people laced up their shoes July 12 for the 15th annual Miles That Matter Pikesville 5K, held near the Festival at Woodholme shopping center.

The race happens each year as a benefit for the locally based Ulman Cancer Fund and was started by real estate developer Mark Sapperstein. It is done in partnership with the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce. There is a 5K run/walk and a one-mile run for children.

Sapperstein, who has chaired the race 12 out of the 15 years it has existed, became passionate about raising cancer awareness after the disease took the life of his mother and mother-in-law.

“We bring in new sponsors each year, new awareness each year,” he said. “The Ulman Cancer Fund folks are doing a great job and it’s great. It’s a lot of fun to smile.” Sapperstein said raising awareness is his favorite aspect to the race and is something his entire family has gotten behind.

“We try to stay on top of it each year,” he said.

Sapperstein said typically the race brings in between $50,000 and $60,000 from those who participate. Ulman Cancer Fund then determines where the money will be allocated.

Ulman provides services to young adults between the ages of 18 and 40 that are affected by cancer. Fitness
instructor Marilyn Pick said she became involved with the race because she wanted to do something for a charitable organization and was particularly intent on cancer awareness as a cause.

“I’m on the board of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, and we wanted to help the community,” she said. “And this is what we thought would be the best way to help the community.”

Pick said the board chose Ulman Cancer Fund because of its focus on young adults and its commitment to making sure patient navigators visit hospitals to educate patients about treatment options.

Pick said the chamber spends an entire year planning for the race. “[The chamber is] the connection between what is happening in the community, and they sponsor various events throughout the year that provide funds for the community to enhance the growth in the Pikesville community,” she said.

Pick is an instructor at Baltimore Fitness & Tennis and began the day’s activities with a Zumba warmup before the start of the 5K race. She said the marriage between philanthropy and physical activity is one that brings her a tremendous amount of joy.

“I love fitness, and my love of fitness carries over to this because I love seeing people become physically active,” she said. “So it’s a win-win situation. We’re helping other people as well
as ourselves.”

Jessica Normington, who is executive director of the chamber, ran the race for the second time. She said it is Pikesville’s largest annual fundraiser and puts the community on the map.

“Most of our sponsors are all chamber members or active community members so we really do look to those for support,” she said. “And we have a lot of teams this year that are chamber members.”

Baltimore resident Vicky Rogers ran the race for the first time with two colleagues from the Weigh Smart program. She said she enjoys running 5Ks and supporting local charities.

“We just love the fact that there’s these community resources around to help kids, both through the cancer
research and also to help families be active and kids be active,” she said.

Pikesville resident Quint Kessenich, who finished 21st in the 5K, said this is his third year running the race. His wife and daughter also attended the event.

“We live nearby and go to LifeBridge, and it’s always a nice little fun event during the summer here when we see a lot of friends and people from the community,” he said.

Among the participants was District 11 Delegate Dan Morhaim, who is also a local physician — something he said informs his judgement about why the race is so important.

“The more we do events like this that are positive and upbeat and energized — they are wonderful,” he said. “And as a physician I certainly support those things as well because I see it in my life.”

Morhaim said cancer affects everyone in the community in some way.

“There’s not a family I know of that hasn’t been touched by cancer, including mine, and so anything that helps deal with cancer prevention, cancer treatment, cancer support is a good thing,” he said.

Good or Bad? Area residents, clergy voice strong opinions about the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran

With an agreement having been reached between the United States and Iran, concerned citizens and clergy from the greater Baltimore region are beginning to weigh in.

The agreement, signed July 14 in Vienna, will require Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions previously imposed by the United States. It calls for Iran to cut two-thirds of its centrifuges from its program and prohibits its use to produce enriched uranium for 10 years. Iran must also reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent and modify its nuclear facilities at Fordow and Arak so that they may only be used for research purposes for the next 15 years.

The agreement has been supported by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has said, according to news reports, that despite recent developments with the United States, Iran will remain allies with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

The next step is a 60-day review process by Congress that begins this week. House Speaker John Boehner said on July 22 that Republican members of Congress would “do everything possible” to block the deal.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he has read the agreement but has not yet taken a position.

“There are several issues where we need clarification on how it works,” he said. “What we see in this agreement is very consistent with what we expected.”

Cardin said although his primary focus is on the United States, he acknowledged that the security of Israel is also a concern of his in dealing with Iran.

“The bottom line in this agreement is whether Iran is prevented from developing a nuclear weapons program,” he said.

Cardin said he is not yet sure how the agreement will go over in the Senate but that many of his colleagues are in the process of reading the agreement and similarly have not taken a position. He said it is important not to lose sight of the many human-rights violations Iran has committed.

“There are so many things that they do that are against our interests,” Cardin said. “We know that if we get the right agreement, it does not eliminate other concerns.”

Cardin said that in the coming weeks he expects to hear input from several members of the community. Some groups, such as the Baltimore Jewish Council, contend that while a deal is promising, this particular agreement does not go far enough in guaranteeing a nuclear-weapons-free Iran.

“Ultimately, it is important that the American public is aware that just four days ago, Iranians took to the streets chanting, ‘Down with America’ while burning our flag,” a statement from the BJC said. “The U.S., in their eyes, is the ‘Great Satan,’ and Israel is just the ‘Little Satan.’”

BJC Deputy Executive Director Cailey Locklair Tolle said the group had originally lobbied for several components to an agreement, including an explanation by Iran of military dimensions to its nuclear program and the dismantling of all nuclear components.

“The way the agreement stands right now, we have major concerns,” she said.

Tolle said she has seen estimates that have put the timeframe of Iran’s ability to create a nuclear warhead at around two months, the same amount of time that the congressional review of the agreement is expected to last.

“Right now nothing stops,” she said. “The centrifuges are still spinning. Uranium is still being enriched.”

Tolle added that the BJC had asked for U.S. sanctions against Iran not to be lifted until all parts of the agreement were met.

Tolle said the BJC would have preferred to see an agreement that lasts multiple decades.

“An agreement that’s really only talking about a couple of years or a decade or two, it really needs to be longer than that,” she explained.

Still, Tolle found some things in the agreement to be positive, such as the 24/7 inspections of declared nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But even that is a far cry from the 24-day window between the IAEA signaling its desire to inspect undeclared nuclear facilities and it being granted the chance to do so.

The length of the process worries Israel advocates such as David Naftaly, a lobbyist with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who lives in Columbia.

“We have a convoluted system that is literally more than 24 days because then it goes to the United Nations, where either Russia or China could veto any claim made by the United States,” he said while noting that President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were “not exactly friends.”

Naftaly, speaking on his own behalf, said he was shocked when he learned the details of the agreement.

“If you were going to build a house, you wouldn’t pay for the entire house to be built before it’s built,” he said, pointing to the speedy relief of economic sanctions called for in the deal.

Naftaly said he felt Obama had taken a detour from the parameters he originally set when he started the negotiations, which included the complete dismantling of the nuclear program and “anytime/ anywhere” inspections.

Naftaly, 68, has worked for AIPAC for 34 years and thinks Iran’s nuclear program is one the most serious threats to world security in the last 40 years.

“They’ve been caught a number of times [of trying to hide things],” he said. “The idea that we would just give Iran $150 billion when we don’t trust them, in my mind, it is lunacy.”

Jay Bernstein, chairman of the Baltimore Zionist District’s advocacy committee, was also critical of the agreement, noting that there is a sunset on the uranium enrichment provisions.

“The idea of wanting to pursue diplomacy is a good one, but that doesn’t mean any deal will work,” he said.

Bernstein said if the agreement required Iran to dismantle all nuclear weapons and be more forthcoming with information, he would be in favor of it. He thinks military action should at least be an option, even as a last resort.

“To me, this is all about how this was negotiated, and it bothers me tremendously that the United States would negotiate a deal and say there’s no other choice,” he said.

Were he in the Senate, said Bernstein, he would vote against the agreement.

Annie Sommer Kaufman, a Baltimore chapter leader for Jewish Voice for Peace, said she is encouraged to see negotiation between the United States and Iran as opposed to military action.

“I think it is a risk, but I think it’s wiser to take this risk than to get into another military invasion/occupation situation like we did in Iraq, which has also led to mass destabilization [and] radicalization,” she said. “It’s hopeful to see a different tack.”

While some Jewish communal organizations remain skeptical of the deal and how it may affect Israel, Kaufman doesn’t think that how’s most American Jews feel.

“American Jews want peace and justice, have some hope in this agreement, have some confidence in their government and don’t always agree with Benjamin Netanyahu,” she said. “And that’s becoming increasingly common, and it’s becoming decreasingly possible for Americans to support or agree with his policies.”

Each Thursday at noon, a group of 10 to 12 Russian seniors meet for News in English, a current events discussion led by Renaissance Adult Medical Center activities director Donna Tatro. This week the first topic was the Iran deal, which provided fodder for the group’s lively, impassioned conversation.

“Everybody knows that Iran helps all enemies of Israel and they always lie about nuclear [capability],” said Lydia Stolkina. “Why would you go to these people and shake their hands [in agreement]? You have to do everything to stop them. I can’t understand — if I know my neighbor is a bandit and he knocks on my door, will I open the door? No, never.”

The idea that we would just give Iran $150 billion when we don’t trust them, in my mind, it is lunacy.

The group consensus was that Iran was not to be trusted on any terms, and a deal that could allow more than 20 days for Iran to prepare for a nuclear plant inspection was not a deal at all and in fact dangerous, not only for Israel, but also for the world.

“This is a bad agreement because Iran will become rich because of the [easing of economic sanctions],” said Tomila Zhovno. “They will sell the oil, get rich, build nuclear plants, they will support Hamas, Hezbollah. They do this now without money, can you imagine what it will be when they get a lot of money from [selling] oil?”

Several local rabbis, such as Rabbi Chai Posner, a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s clergy, have spoken in slightly more measured tones. Posner said he expected an agreement to be reached but hoped it would be different.

“It’s hard to understand how any deal says we’ll let you know when we’re going to come check things out,” he said.

Posner said the United States needs to realize that it is not negotiating with levelheaded people who want peace.

“It’s almost like we’re sort of banking on the fact that 10 years from now Iran will be a different entity and that will be sort of a scary thought,” he said.

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff of Har Sinai Congregation described the deal as “kicking the can down the road.” He is worried that Iran’s nuclear capability will not be eliminated and that the financial windfall destined for Iran could be used to fund terrorists intent on attacking Israel. He focusedhis sermon at Shabbat services on June 17 on the agreement.

Rabbi Ariel Fishman, leader of the Jewish young professionals group JHeritage, said he too had a reaction of profound concern about the deal but didn’t think it would necessarily be detrimental.

“Diplomacy’s obviously the first resort,” he said. “I think what people are concerned about is having diplomacy in its strongest form.”

Fishman echoed the assessment of others in saying he still had very little faith in the Iranian government.

“Regardless of whatever the deal outcome is, people are concerned about members of the Iranian government saying ‘Death to America, Death to
Israel,’” he said.

Robert Freedman, a visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University specializing in Middle East history, said he can see both positives and negatives to the deal. Freedman said he read through all 159 pages of the agreement and was encouraged to know that Iran will be held to just 500 centrifuges.

“For the next eight to 10 years, the main avenues for Iran to get a nuclear weapon have been removed,” he said.

The most problematic area of the agreement is the 24-day advance notice required to inspect problematic sites, he said. “The question is, in 24 days, do the Iranians have the capabilities of cleaning everything up?”

Melissa Gerr and Marc Shapiro contributed to this article.