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 bit.ly/1K2BcR4.

Pollard Release Set for November

Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew who has served 30 years of a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel, will be released Nov. 20 from a U.S. prison.

The Parole Board announced its decision on Tuesday after the Justice Department agreed not to oppose the release.

073115_pollardIn Israel, many were expected to celebrate the moment that they had hoped and fought for.

What Pollard’s release won’t do, officials and analysts said, is make most Israelis feel any better about the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that Pollard, who was as civilian Navy analyst when he was arrested in 1985, could be released on or before his Nov. 21 parole hearing. The newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying that they hoped the release would help smooth relations with Israel, though the White House and Israeli government have since denied that the two issues are linked.

Relations between Israel and the United States have been particularly fraught in recent weeks following the nuclear deal reached July 14 between Iran and the major powers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the deal’s most vocal opponents.

“It could be because there’s a desire to send a signal to the Israeli public or the Jewish community here that whatever the differences between the president and the prime minister, there are other issues that are simply not going to be affected by” the Iran deal, said Dennis Ross, a former Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator.

But the notion that releasing Pollard would soften Israeli opposition to the nuclear agreement is “insulting,” said Zionist Union lawmaker Nachman Shai, who chairs the Knesset caucus to free Pollard.

“It’s an attempt to use his release, it seems, to advance other issues that don’t have to do with it, like the agreement with Iran,” said Shai, a member of the opposition in the Knesset. “It’s a wretched thought. It doesn’t take into account that you can’t buy the Israeli public with these tools. That won’t work. Israelis understand — they know it’s not connected.”

Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a longtime supporter of Pollard’s release, likewise is irritated by the thought of using Pollard’s release to send a signal.

“It’s an outrage that anyone would claim that releasing Jonathan Pollard now is doing a favor to anyone,” Dershowitz said. “He should have been released 20 years ago.”

The U.S. government violated its plea deal agreement with Pollard, he said. Under the agreement, Pollard pleaded guilty to save the government the exposure of a public trial. Prosecutors asked for a life term for Pollard, even though “it was in violation of the plea deal,” Dershowitz said.

“The government has been holding him as a bargaining chip,” he added.

“Regarding influencing relations between the U.S. and Israel — whether the personal relationship or the formal relationship between the two states — Pollard as an asset already lost his value,” said Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies who has served as a senior official in Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “He might have had influence in that sense 10 or 15 years ago. After 30 years in the American prison, he has no significance in the relations.”

Pollard’s prospective release has been unsuccessfully used as a chit in U.S.-Israel relations at least twice, according to Israeli and international reports. President Bill Clinton reportedly offered Pollard’s release in 1998 in exchange for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. His release was again floated last year as part of a failed last-ditch effort to save Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

But while releasing Pollard may have helped soften right-wing opposition to a peace deal, it would not lessen opposition in Israel to the Iran deal, which has united both left- and right-wingers.

“You’ve had different Israeli governments, in the context of moving on peace, that saw the benefit of trying to diffuse right-wing opposition to certain moves,” Ross said. “This is something different because Iran is seen in existential terms, so I don’t think you can draw much of a connection between the two.”

In the three decades since Pollard, now 60, has been behind bars, campaigning for his release has become a rare consensus issue in Israel. In 2013, 100 of the 120 members of Israel’s Knesset signed a letter calling for his freedom. Ronen Bergman, an analyst who’s finishing a book on Israel’s intelligence agencies, said Israelis view Pollard like they would a prisoner of war.

“From his point of view, he was trying to help Israelis,” Bergman said. He was [put] in jail, so he’s a POW.”

Pollard’s release gained urgency in Israel as he served more time, in part because his health has deteriorated. Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, told a conference of Israeli settlers last month that former Israeli President Shimon Peres, while in office, would raise Pollard’s case at the start of every meeting with President Barack Obama.

“In my opinion, it’s an open wound between us and the Americans,” Oren told the conference. “I worked without end to free him. I’m sorry, and not proud to say, I didn’t succeed.”

For Pollard’s release to have any effect on Israeli attitudes toward America, Bergman said, the U.S. will have to make clear that they are releasing him as a special gesture, not just because he’s up for parole.

WJW Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey W. Melada and Senior Writer David Holzel contributed to this article.

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.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Hoops for Peace Kids’ basketball program teaches conflict resolution

Peace Players International teaches kids in divided communities the principles of resolving conflicts through basketball. Children start as young as 5 and can  continue into their 20s.

Peace Players International teaches kids in divided communities the principles of resolving conflicts through basketball. Children start as young as 5 and can continue into their 20s.

For the last 15 years, an international program has been attempting to take the first step toward world peace through an unlikely mechanism — basketball.

Peace Players International, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, works to unite children of different communities from around the world that have a history of violence through programs that combine basketball and education about resolving conflicts.

“Basketball is a universal language. It’s a way of bringing two kids together who have probably never met,” said Adam Hirsch, deputy director for development and communications. “On the court you’re following the rules of the game together.”

Since the organization was started in 2001, more than 69,000 youths in 15 countries have participated, and there are now four main programs that are located in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, South Africa and the Middle East. PPI has also worked with programs in cities around the United States such as Chicago, New Orleans and Kansas City.

Hirsch worked part time for the Golden State Warriors in graduate school but ended up taking a slightly different path in his career after hearing about PPI.

“I heard about an opportunity to travel the world and coach basketball and, more than that, use basketball as a tool to build peace and bring kids of different backgrounds together; it was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

Hirsch gave the analogy that if one were to organize a peace conference, the only people in attendance would be advocates of peace, but in a basketball tournament everyone would come.

One of the newer programs is the Middle East program, which began in 2005. It is meant to address
cultural segregation problems that have developed between Arabs and Israelis as well as counter the image
of inequality of resources. So far 6,600 students have gone through the program, including some that have been there all 10 years and are now in their teens or 20s.

This program was the first joint Arab/Israeli basketball team in the Israel Basketball Association’s national youth league. Last year, the girls’ under 18 division won its champion-ship and played basketball at the White House with National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

One of PPI’s more recent endeavors is the Mitzvah Project, which is meant to engage bar and bat mitzvah students in planning charity events such as basketball and golf tournaments. It has raised more than $150,000 through more than 50 projects since it was started two years ago. Some have the opportunity to go to Israel and visit the kids they help raise money for.

“In lieu of gifts, a lot of kids these days are choosing to do some sort of activity,” Hirsch said. “We had a kid in San Francisco write letters to Israel.”

Hirsch said this fall a new PPI program done in partnership with Adidas will begin in Washington, D.C. It will bring together 16 high school sophomores for a leadership development program in which they will work with trained coaches and mentors. They will travel to Israel next month to participate in an exchange sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

072415_peace players1Adidas and the State Department, along with the United States Agency for International Development and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, are the main global funders of PPI, but the organization also receives funding from local communities. Baltimore’s funders include the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds and the Lois and Philip Macht Family Philanthropic Fund.

Among the individual donors is Ronald Shapiro, who lives in Butler and spent five years as chairman of the PPI board. Shapiro, a well-known sports agent and bestselling author, helped get the organization off the ground financially.

“I was called on after the organization had been around for four or five years to help figure out a strategy for fundraising,” he said.

Shapiro sits on the board of more than 25 different organizations but says this has been one of the most moving experiences of his life.

“I think it is so important that we find ways to build bridges if we care about the future of Israel and if we care about the future of the Middle East,” he said.

Shapiro has visited the program in Northern Ireland and frequently goes to Israel. He had planned to take his granddaughter to a tournamentthere last summer but held back due to Operation Protective Edge.

Shapiro said he was fortunate enough to meet the first Arab to play on the Israeli men’s national basketball team, Samer Jassar. Jassar was 14 when he joined the program and now works for Shapiro’s sports negotiations firm in Baltimore.

“At least a dozen of the kids who are in the Leadership Development Institute started when they were 5 or 6,” he said. “That ball that they grab is bringing them together. They haven’t built walls yet.”

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Thousands Rally Against Iran Nuclear Deal In Times Square

More than 10,000 people gathered in New York City's Times Square to protest against the Iran Deal. Alberto Reyes/INFphoto/Newscom

More than 10,000 people gathered in New York City’s Times Square to protest against the Iran Deal. Alberto Reyes/INFphoto/Newscom

 

Approximately 10,000 people crammed into New York City’s Times Square Wednesday evening to demand that Congress vote against the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

Protesters, consisting mainly of pro-Israel and right-wing supporters, view the deal as a huge threat to the safety and security of both the United States and Israel.

The Stop Iran Rally was coordinated by the Jewish Rapid Response Coalition, in partnership with more than 80-other organizations, including Middle East Forum, StandWithUs and CAMERA. The two-hour event featured numerous speakers, including congressmen and Israel advocates, all urging the crowd to voice their opinions to denounce a deal that was unanimously panned by those in attendance as overwhelmingly detrimental to the future of this country and Israel. Speeches were followed by short videos depicting the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.

Protesters held up anti-Iran signs, facing both the crowd and passers-by on Seventh Avenue, while chanting “Kill this deal.” Police barricaded streets and traffic trickled through the crowd, some of whom were cloaked in American or Israeli flags.

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.

Caleb G. said, “It was great to be a part of something to help Israel, America and the world.” His classmate Tali B. added, “Today I really cared about Israel — I felt like I was a part of something.”

According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, of the 79 percent of people who have heard about this deal, 48 percent disagree with it.

Additionally, only 3 percent said they have a great amount of trust that Iran will hold up its end of the bargain.

Congress has 60 days until a final decision must be made. If Congress votes against the deal, President Barack Obama can veto it. Overriding the veto requires two-thirds approval from the House and Senate.

rkurland@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0737

Making the Connection Israeli Corporations use MIDC to invest in Maryland

Panelists from the Israel Embassy answer questions at MIDC day in Washington, D.C. (Photos provided)

Panelists from the Israel Embassy answer questions at MIDC day in Washington, D.C. (Photos provided)

About 130 people turned out for MIDC day at the Israel Embassy in Washington, D.C., last month, hosted by the Maryland Israel Development Center. The attendees — a mix of businesspeople, academics and advocates from various Jewish organizations — mingled for an hour over food and drinks before listening to a panel discussion made up of embassy members.

The discussion was moderated by MIDC board member Lynn Shapiro Snyder and included panelists Oren Marmorstein, Anat Katz and Inbal Hanasab.

Marmorstein is the Counselor for Public and Academic Affairs and spent the last three years in Cairo before taking his position with the embassy.

“My department is the most important,” he said in gest. “We try to engage university presidents. We try to engage university faculty and we do all that we can to engage students.”

Marmorstein discussed the different partnerships between universities in the United States and Israel, such as between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

“The idea is to build together a joint campus here in the states,” he said.

Marmorstein also took a few moments to address controversy from the past year surrounding the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that has made its way onto college campuses around the country. He said contrary to what the media has reported, “All elite universities in America have a close relationship with Israel.”

Marmorstein added that a good indicator of those strong ties is to look at the number of joint academic publications between the two countries, which, he said, are up 40 percent from last year.

Marmorstein said one of his recent projects has been increasing efforts to send more Latino students to study in Israel and the Israeli government is investing $100,000 to do so.

“We have allocated an entire scholarship fund,” he said. “Its purpose is to ensure that Latino students can come study in Israel. Basically they can come and study whatever they want.”

Marmorstein will depart for Tel Aviv after he finishes serving his post at the embassy this summer.

072415_midc2Katz, the embassy’s Commercial Attaché, heads its trade mission and expressed excitement about the 30th anniversary of the free trade relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

“We try and really support the economic activity in Israel itself,” she said.

Katz said her role at the embassy is to assist Israeli companies coming into the U.S. in their initial stages.

“They approach us and they basically tell us what they want,” she said.

One such company is the now Baltimore-based Jedvice, which is a technical design and engineering company that manufactures security systems such as cameras and radars. Eran Jedwab is CEO and owner, who moved to Maryland from Israel in August 2013 with his wife, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Jedwab earned two engineering degrees from Technion and spent six years in the Israel Defense Forces, in the cadets program. About 1995 he became a technical officer of the land radar unit and later helped manage a defense systems program for the West Bank during the Second Intifada. Jedwab said the technology operated based on historical data gathered, such as from locations of past terrorist attacks. He said the program covered about 20 villages including some with children, where the threat level was highest.

“It was kind of a collection of multiple projects,” he said. “Each one was designed with a system specific to the terrain around the village.”

He then became a consultant for the Ministry of Defense in 2004 and has since employed his engineering skills on a jail in Israel and on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jedwab said he’s excited about taking the skills he developed in Israel and applying them on a much larger scale for a wider market.

Upon moving to the U.S., he received a grant from TEDCO, an independent organization the state set up to fund entrepreneurial ventures and startups.

“MIDC got me in connection with some key folks that helped me to really make some progress during this recent year [and] they helped get TEDCO funding,” he said.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

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.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Eye-Opening Experience Israeli summer camps help underprivileged, at-risk kids find their way

JERUSALEM — Most schools are veritable ghost towns during the summer months. But in the halls of four high schools in the Israeli development towns of Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Arad and Dimona, the sounds of learning, life and laughter can still be heard this season.

For five weeks this summer, 27 students from Yeshiva University have come to Israel to run four summer camps for approximately 300 teenagers, many of whom are underprivileged and at-risk. The Counterpoint Israel camps, all located in development towns in southern Israel, each run for 12 days and offer campers a chance to work on their English, as they enjoy regular camp activities such as sports, arts and crafts, drumming and cooking. In addition, campers learn about issues relevant to them, such as Internet safety and time and money management, all while studying Jewish history and heritage, culture and Diaspora relations. Campwide contests offer a chance to show off their competitive edge, and field trips take them to parts of the country they’ve never seen before — including the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

But most importantly, say organizers, camp gives these eighth- to 10-graders structure that would otherwise be missing from their summer. In Israel, camps for teenagers are in short supply, and when there are camps available, many families are not able to afford them. At the Counterpoint camps, though, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services picks up the tab for underprivileged families. And whereas typical high school classes have up to 35 students, at these four summer camps there are three counselors for every eight to 10 campers.

Though some campers and counselors lose touch after the 12-day experience, others forge connections that last long after the summer is over. “You’re Superman,” exclaimed a boy named Bar to 20-year-old YU student Elan Rotenberg of Baltimore. “No, I’m just Elan,” his counselor answered humbly. Not letting go, Bar insisted, “Well, you’re Superman to me.”

Before camp began, the YU students had a week-long orientation to prepare them for camp and to teach them the skills they would need to succeed. Orientation included presentations by Counterpoint counselors from previous summers.

Even though it’s summer, the kids seem to be enjoying some classroom sessions that can last more than an hour.

“I thought camp was going to be boring,” one camper began. “I came the first day to see if it was fun, and I thought I would leave early. But it was fun, so I came every day!”

“Every summer, Counterpoint campers find new levels of confidence through the expansion of their English vocabularies; the acquisition of knowledge and skills leaves the campers with a heightened sense of accomplishment,” said Kiva Rabinsky, director of Counterpoint Israel. “Additionally, dialoguing with their American counselors, who are religious Jews, and taking part in Jewish heritage programming results in the exploration of their personal and
Jewish identity — exciting growth of a different kind.

“Our hope,” added Rabinsky, “is that our multifaceted and innovative Counterpoint programming will improve the skills of the Israeli teens while helping them develop a positive self-image and a strong connection with traditional Jewish values and their own Jewish identities.”

Each camper who participates in Counterpoint enters with a clean slate; counselors are not told anything about who has a troubled background and who doesn’t, so all the teens start out on even footing. They show up to camp for a 9:30 a.m. start time and stay to hang out with their counselors past 2:45 p.m., when camp is dismissed. Over the 12 days, the campers form bonds with their counselors and develop a sense of empowerment and self-worth.

Our hope is that our multifaceted and innovative Counterpoint programming will improve the skills of the Israeli teens while helping them develop a positive self-image and a strong connection with traditional Jewish values.

YU student Gabriella Stein, 21, from Bala Cynwyd, Pa., who is studying communications and education, came on the program because she loves teaching and hopes to go into social work. Just days into the program, she said, “I feel we’ve already made a difference. We’re already friends with these kids; we’re already connected to them.”

Benji Shedlo, 20, of Silver Spring, Md., said that it’s not only the campers who are learning and getting a lot out of this experience. He told a story that to him epitomizes his time here. On a field trip to Jerusalem the campers were approached on the street by a homeless man begging for change. Despite their own meager resources, the campers dug into their pockets to give the man any change they could spare. They also offered him a bottle of water.

“The potential these kids have is really impressive,” said Shedlo.

One of the markers of success for the program, said Rabinsky, is seeing YU participants get involved in their communities in the future.

According to Rabbi Kenneth Brander, YU’s vice president for university and community life, many leaders of Jewish communities in North America and Israel are products of Counterpoint. Brander himself is a past head adviser of Counterpoint Canada.

Shedlo said that his experience this summer has been eye-opening.

“I came on Counterpoint because I wanted to give back to Israel,” he explained. “It’s like, rather than giving these kids fish so they can live for a day, we are teaching them to fish, which is the highest form of charity. We’re helping them become successful and in that way we are helping make Israel a stronger place for the future.”

Netanya Weiss is a freelancer living in Jerusalem.