Girls on the Move

KSDS third- and fourth- grade girls participate in a program that uses running as a platform for exploring girls’ issues within a Jewish context. (Provided)

KSDS third- and fourth- grade girls participate in a program that uses running as a platform for exploring girls’ issues within a Jewish context.

Sunday morning, the sun was shining and the music was blasting at the starting line for the 4th Annual Krieger Schechter on the Move 5K. For one group of runners, it marked the culmination of four months of training and self-discovery.

On Tuesday afternoons, the third- and fourth-grade girls would race to the lobby of Chizuk Amuno to participate in Girls on the Move, a program that uses running as a platform for exploring age-appropriate girls’ issues within a Jewish context.

For the 12th season, Liz Minkin-Friedman, a KSDS parent and staff member, served as the girls’ coach. Minkin-Friedman, a trained social worker, designed the curriculum “to expand on values and exemplify them in action.”

“Running is just the jumping off point to talk about self-esteem, body image and respect,” said Minkin-Friedman. “We teach the girls how to listen in silence, how to listen to themselves. There are no phones, no television, no distractions. They can really be in their heads.”

The girls established a routine, kicking off their training sessions with a nickname cheer before heading outside for group warm-ups and practice runs to put the good running techniques they had learned into practice.

Sometimes they would run in pairs and were given an assignment to discuss with their partner. Other times they worked on setting their own pace, giving their coach and parent volunteers an opportunity to catch up with each of them one-on-one.

Back inside Chizuk Amuno, the girls would be given problem-solving prompts that emphasized such values as friendship, communication, listening and team work.

Which isn’t to say that the occasional disagreement, particularly during a competitive team-building exercise, didn’t occur, but when flare-ups happened, the girls had been taught to stop, self-reflect and express themselves using first-person statements.

The morning of the race, the girls warmed up and took their places at the starting line together before speeding off at their own individual paces on the 3.1-mile long course that snaked through the neighborhood surrounding their school.

At the finish line, several of the girls were eager to share their thoughts on the race and the lessons they had learned through Girls on the Move.

Third-grader Noa Rone, all smiles after her 40-minute run, said she learned through Girls on the Move that “if you put your mind to it, you can really do it.”

Another takeaway for Rone was learning about teamwork. “We learned to be like a team and do stuff even if you don’t really want to.”

Kaitlyn Rochlin, also in third grade, echoed Rone in citing teamwork as a lesson well learned. “It’s important to have [teamwork], to help each other,” said Rochlin.

She added, “I feel amazing. Just accomplishing this is a great feeling. If two years ago you told me that I’d want to run a 5K, I’d say, ‘No way!’, so I’m glad I could do it.”

“I really wanted to run the 5K and spend time with my friends,” said Kylie Beckerman-Berman, also in third grade. “It was really fun, and Girls on the Move was really awesome. It’s nice to be with a group of girls. The race was so fun, and finishing the 5K was a great feeling.”

“I was really happy I could accomplish this because I trained for a long time,” said third-grader Rose Seidman. “We did practice runs and used different techniques, like when you go downhill you have to bend down.”

“You should always try your best,” Seidman added. “What matters is that you have fun and try your best.”

Honeymoon Israel Young couples get their chance to do the Birthright thing

The Phoenix group from one of  the pilot Honeymoon Israel trips  gathers in Jerusalem, in May.

The Phoenix group from one of
the pilot Honeymoon Israel trips
gathers in Jerusalem, in May.

JERUSALEM — Jay and Mikelle sat next to each other on the bus as it ascended the road to Jerusalem.

Later the same day they accompanied each other on an emotional trip to Yad Vashem,Israel’s Holocaust museum. The next day they planned to trek up to the desert fortress at Masada and swim together in the Dead Sea.

During its week-and-a-half journey through Israel, their bus would stop so they could hike up north and relax at the beach in Tel Aviv. Some of the group had been here before; for others it was their first time.

But unlike the hundreds of Taglit-Birthright Israel buses that traverse Israel every year, there were no random hookups on this tour. Its participants were couples, some with children. About a third of the participants weren’t Jewish.
Called Honeymoon Israel, the trip is a “Birthright” for married couples aged 25 to 40. Like Birthright — the free 10-day journeys to Israel for 18- to 26-year-old Jews — the couples’ excursion hopes to foster Jewish identity in its participants as they are settling down and having kids.

Acknowledging the growing number of intermarried families, the trip mandates that only one of the two partners be Jewish.

“We plan on raising our household Jewish,” said Jay Belfore, a trip participant who was raised Catholic and whose wife, Mikelle, is Jewish. “In order for me to gain a better understanding of the culture, seeing Israel is important to us.”

On their second date, Mikelle told Jay that she wanted to raise Jewish children. Jay appreciates Judaism’s emphasis on family, and said the trip has given him a frame of reference for Jewish life, teaching him about the origins of holidays and customs. The couple has two children, 3 and 1.

“My hope was that Jay would learn about Judaism on a deeper level and would feel more involved in our children’s upbringing,” Mikelle said. “Honeymoon Israel has created a safe place for couples in similar situations.”

That safe place is the trip’s goal, said Honeymoon Israel co-CEO Avi Rubel, who launched the project with co-CEO Mike Wise. Families and Jewish communities at home can be judgmental of intermarried couples or those without much Jewish background, he said, and coming to Israel together allows them to have an immersive and supportive Jewish experience.

“What if they did feel welcome and not judged, and at home in the Jewish community?” said Rubel, formerly the founding North American director of Masa Israel Journey, which coordinates long-term Israel programs for young people. “Then at this time they’re looking for meaning, and they would find it in the Jewish community.”

Honeymoon Israel’s two pilot trips, from Los Angeles and Phoenix, arrived in late May with 20 couples each. There was an outsize demand — 85 couples applied from Los Angeles and 51 from Phoenix — and interviews were part of the process.

While the trip’s total expenses add up to about $10,000 per couple, the couples pay only $1,800. The Boston-based Jacobson Family Foundation is the primary funder. The trip is not linked to Taglit-Birthright Israel, which is paid for in part by the Israeli government. Rubel and Wise, the former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo in New York, hope to run 50 Honeymoon Israel trips a year.

Such initiatives, said Jewish sociologist Steven Cohen, are crucial in light of the results of the Pew Research Center’s 2013 “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which showed that 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews were intermarrying. Showing intermarried couples a Jewish society, Cohen said, can give the non-Jewish spouse a larger context to connect personally to Judaism.

“Being Jewish in yourself is connected with being Jewish in your family, in your community and in your people,” said Cohen, a research professor at Hebrew Union CollegeJewish Institute of Religion. “These circles of social identity are layered from top to bottom.” Honeymoon Israel is one of a few imitation Birthright programs to emerge in recent years.
The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project runs eight-day group trips to Israel for Jewish mothers. An organization called Covenant Journey plans to bring groups of Evangelical Christian youth to Israel for subsidized trips starting this year.

Honeymoon Israel takes its participants across the country, but spends more time in Tel Aviv than most Birthright trips, aiming to show Israel’s modern culture as well as its historical and biblical sites. Participants on the Phoenix trip did Havdalah, the closing ceremony of Shabbat, with Beit Tefillah Israeli, a liberal prayer group that meets on the beach. And the group spent a day in northern Israel learning about coexistence efforts between Arabs and Jews.

“This is not a Disney World trip,” Rubel said. “We want people to see Israel in all its complexity. We want people to have a positive experience in Israel. We think part of doing that is giving people a chance to see the whole picture.”

The trips also aim to maintain connections among the couples after they return to their home city. Couples met at a Shabbat dinner before the trip, and monthly Shabbat dinners are planned for when they return. A trip staff member will also be available to meet with the couples back home.

“In this modern world where we have almost no boundaries, the new face of Jews is definitely an international one,” said Khai Ling Tan, who was born in Malaysia and whose husband, Jonathan Levine, is Jewish. “You don’t want to be exclusive because when you do that, your world becomes smaller and smaller and smaller.”

BJC Discusses Agenda Cardin, Gross highlight annual meeting

The Baltimore Jewish Council’s annual meeting June 4 at Beth El Congregation was packed with political stars from the Jewish community that included U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and Alan Gross  –  a government contractor who spent five years in a Cuban prison before being released in December 2014. Also present was Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and several members of the Maryland House of Delegates.

The event began with a brief discussion of the week’s parshah from Rabbi Andrew Busch and then a set of awards presented to Rona and Ben Kramer. Rona was honored for her service in the Maryland State Senate and as the secretary of the Department of Aging. Ben was recognized for his service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he has served since 2007.

Gross, who lives in Washington, D.C., opened his remarks by telling the crowd that he had lived in Baltimore between 1959 and 1967 and had several family members who were married at Beth El.

“Since I’ve been home, so many people have come up to me,” he said.

Alan Gross (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

Alan Gross (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

His tone became humble while he thanked a number of people who were instrumental to his release that included President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Sen. Cardin, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Gross’s wife, Judith.

“They stood up for me, supported me, and I will always stand up for them,” he said.

Gross didn’t discuss the details of his time in prison but said when he boarded Air Force One on Dec. 17 he was asked what he would like his first meal to be as a free man, to which he replied “a corned beef sandwich and latkes.”

Ultimately, Gross thinks it was the grassroots movement that led to his release.

“I had to ask myself what ultimately tipped the scales in the right direction,” Gross said. “What ultimately enabled the president to make such a historic decision? The answer: Everyone.”

Cardin then took the floor and discussed a variety of topics that included foreign and domestic policy toward Israel as well as the impending Iran nuclear deal.

He expressed concern over the 10-year old boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which has made its way on to 300 college campuses in the United States.

“They are trying to bring Israel down,” he said. “That’s what BDS does.”

Ben Cardin (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

Ben Cardin (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

Cardin said he believes the Palestinians have tried to take a course that involves getting the support of several third parties and cautioned against relying on the United Nations to broker a deal between the two groups.

“We know the two-state solution is the only way we can go forward,” said Cardin.

He said that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is “much stronger” than many have made it out to be lately and added he found statements between Obama and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “regrettable.”

Cardin believes the U.S. is the only country that will stand with Israel on these issues and discussed how he and Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman introduced the United States-Israel Trade Enhancement Act of 2015, which requires trade negotiators to include anti-BDS trade provisions with Europe.

Cardin, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then turned his focus to the recent negotiations over framework for an Iran nuclear deal, which he helped craft in April with Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the committee.

“The circumstances are at a crisis level,” Cardin said of the Middle East. “We have countries that are no longer countries.”

Cardin noted several principles he hopes will be implemented to help bring order to the region, the first of which, he said, is U.S. leadership.

“No other country but the United States can bring any sense of order to the Middle East,” Cardin asserted. “The Sunnis and Shias can’t talk with each other.”

Cardin also discussed the lead-up to the Iran nuclear deal framework that began April 2 and lasted about two weeks. Though he was concerned of a potential stalemate between the administration and Congress, Cardin lauded Obama for putting pressure on Congress by laying down a veto threat to the bill.

Details for the agreement should be finalized by the end of the month, he said, but Cardin is still concerned because Iran has not complied with the terms of the interim Joint Plan of Action that was signed in November 2013.

“It’s absolutely essential to have an effective agreement,” he said, “[and] we must be able to inspect in Iran anywhere we think they’re cheating.”

Added Cardin, “Let’s never make the support of Israel a partisan wedge issue in American politics. There are enough issues that American Jews can disagree on, but Israel should be off limits.”BJC Discusses Agenda

‘A Loving Patriarch’ Robert Hiller, philanthropist, community leader, passes away at 93

The Baltimore Jewish community said goodbye to a highly influential figure on May 27 when Robert Hiller died at his Florida home at the age of 93.

Among his many notable philanthropic accomplishments, Hiller served as executive vice president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and was also a president of the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund that helped expand the Kennedy Krieger Institute. That fund also provided Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences with a $50 million endowment. Hiller also served on the United Way of Central Maryland — an organization he helped found.

Hiller grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he lived until 1944 when he became a first lieutenant in the Air Force during World War II. He flew more than 25 missions as navigator of a B-24 in Munich, Vienna and Prague. After the war, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s in social work in 1948.

Robert Hiller (Provided)

Robert Hiller (Provided)

After college, Hiller took a position with the Community Chest of Metropolitan Detroit and helped form the United Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit — a precursor to the United Way in the sense that it brought several community health and welfare agencies together. Hiller went on to serve the Jewish federations in Cleveland and Pittsburgh before coming to Baltimore in 1965, when he became the executive vice president of what was then known as The Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund.

Associated President Marc Terrill called Hiller a “giant” in the field of Jewish communal leadership.

“Through his decades of service, Bob aided in setting a standard for professional practice,” said Terrill. “He was a student and a teacher of community development theory and was guided by an ethical and moral code which distinguished him as a leader.”

As a faculty member and field instructor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and Community Planning for more than 20 years, Hiller also influenced many through his dedication to education. He served on the board of advisors for both the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the Goucher Center for Educational

Very hands-on in his philanthropy roles, Hiller also helped establish the National Council on Soviet Jewry and personally greeted hundreds of Russian Jews at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. He played a key role in
securing the American Jewish community’s commitment to Israel by leading several missions there and spearheading a number of fundraising campaigns that inspired others to become involved, including several government leaders.

Hiller also committed himself to helping Northwest Baltimore by starting the organization CHAI and securing funds for the Owings Mills JCC.

Hiller also made the advancement of women in Jewish communal work one of his priorities, as was leadership training and professional education.

After heading north for a two-year stint in New York with the Council of Jewish Federations, he returned to Baltimore in 1980 to assume the presidency of the newly established Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund that allowed him to work closely with his friend Zanvyl Krieger.

Hiller’s daughter Karen Kreisberg said from a young age, she was enthralled with her father’s dedication to his work.

“We used to sit at the dining-room table after he led a mission to Israel,” Kreisberg said. “He would tell us stories and show us small pieces of antiquities. He brought Israel to life for us.”

Kreisberg said her father practiced his presentations, lectures and talks for her and solicited honest feedback. “He let me into his work, and it was a privilege that I only understand today.”

Her father’s legacy was his passion for social justice, said Kreisberg, and his ability to unite local, national and international communities.

“What I think he hoped to do for others was instilled by his mother and rooted in Jewish tradition,” she said. “He wanted to empower the next generation to take responsibility to care for their community and to understand that each person’s contribution made a difference.”

Hiller’s daughter Barbara Schuman said her father had a powerful impact on both the family and the community.

“His greatness was rooted in his love of family, love of community and love of the potential in all people,” she said. “To the public he was a strong and innovative community leader. Our family recognized him as a loving patriarch who guided and nurtured each of us with boundless energy.”

Robert I. Hiller is survived by his wife, Marianne Hiller (nee Silver); children Karen H. Kreisberg (Howard Kleinman); Barbara H. Schuman; and Joshua D. Hiller (Cindy); his brother, Donald (Jackie); grandchildren Michael (Jenny) Kreisberg; Kathryn Vogelstein (Joshua); Dr. Zev Schuman-Olivier (Danielle); Sara C. Schuman (Duncan Willson); Eric R. Hiller; Dr. Marc R. Hiller (Gaby); and Alec P. Hiller; and great-grandchildren Lilli, True, Nolan, Shuntavi, Izzi and Annabel.

On the Table Domestic security concerns, Iran dominate OU mission to D.C.

Local leaders and other attendees of the Orthodox Union Leadership Mission to Washington, D.C., made clear to Congress their concerns over ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran and domestic security funding for Jewish institutions.

More than 120 lay leaders and modern Orthodox clergy from nine states gathered on Capitol Hill June 3 for a packed day of meetings with members of Congress and briefings from foreign ambassadors and the White House.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer kicked off the day with a briefing on Iran. He reiterated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position that Iran cannot be trusted and will continue to develop ballistic missiles.

“There is only one true existential threat to Israel: the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he said.

His message was echoed by the delegates, who stood behind the OU’s position that no deal is preferable to a bad deal.

061215_ouSecurity on the home front was also a source of major concern. Participants lobbied to have the funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative Non-Profit Security Grant Program, to which nonprofit institutions, such as synagogues and day schools, can apply for funds that enable them to upgrade their security measures, raised to $25 million. The program is currently funded at $13 million.

In a letter sent in April to the leading members of the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Peter King (R-N.Y.) and others cited the 2014 shooting at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, a string of anti-Semitic hate crimes targeting synagogues in northern New Jersey in 2011 and the 2009 murder of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as reasons to increase funding.

Rabbi Etan Mintz of B’nai Israel Congregation in Baltimore said, “It’s a small bill, but it’s something that’s been critical for our local synagogues and nonprofits. We take all the steps to maintain the security of our synagogues.”

His sentiments were echoed by Elliot Holtz, chair of Foundation for Jewish Day Schools — a partner with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — who said the grants “are extremely important to neighborhoods like Philadelphia, which is mainly urban with many of our schools and synagogues unprotected by other resources. They’re on highways, in dense neighborhoods, so these funds have been important for improvements [that] harden the buildings.

“You can feel the difference in the community to those institutions that have applied and successfully received a grant,” added Holtz. “As we see
attacks around the world by individuals and small numbers of people, these deterrents are important to protecting our communities.”

Precisely for the reasons Holtz outlined, delegates from Cherry Hill, N.J., pressed their members of Congress to help reverse a decision made by the Urban Area Working Group for Philadelphia, under whose umbrella South Jersey falls as part of the Metropolitan Statistical Area. The working group declared their institutions ineligible to have grants considered for the upcoming fiscal year, although no reason for the denial was given.

According to Alise Panitch and Uri Halle, the delegates who helped lead the efforts to craft grant applications for Jewish day schools and institutions in the region, they were notified only days before the deadline. They spoke with Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and a member of Rep. Robert Brady’s (D-Pa.) staff on the issue.

Without the grants, the Jewish institutions in South Jersey will continue to “prioritize and seek local funding as we have year by year,” said Panitch. “There are property-wide things we’d like to accomplish” that a grant would help facilitate.

OU delegates further lobbied on behalf of the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and in the House by Reps. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.). Under the proposed legislation, nonprofits could apply for grants of up to 50 percent of the total cost of energy efficiency programs, or a maximum of $200,000, taken from $50 million that would be set aside for fiscal years 2016 to 2020.

The OU is part of a coalition, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Jewish Federations of North America, calling for the government to help nonprofits afford energy-efficient facility upgrades.

Following their lobbying sessions, the attendees gathered for a luncheon in the Senate.

“We must make sure, by any means necessary, that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). His comments were in line with the dozen or so senators in attendance at the afternoon luncheon, including Democratic stalwart Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) were particularly well received for their work on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Cardin, who belongs to the modern Orthodox synagogue Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore, spoke out against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and referenced the amendment he authored in the Senate that would discourage European trading partners from engaging in boycotts of Israel and Israeli controlled territories.

“I would say almost all the members of Congress, in most cases, were on the same page as our delegates,” said Nathan J. Diament, executive director of the OU Advocacy Center. “Both Republicans and Democrats we met with had serious concerns about the Iran nuclear issue. They’re waiting to see what the final terms of the deal are, if a deal does get concluded.”

The OU delegation received a briefing from White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who mostly reiterated the administration’s position regarding ongoing nuclear agreement talks with Iran and world powers. But McDonough’s remarks were not well received by everyone in attendance.
Marc Hess of Cherry Hill described McDonough’s presentation as “weak.”

“[McDonough] said that Iran is very concerned about what the U.S. thinks … but that’s absurd,” said Hess, a military veteran who spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq as a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense. “That Iran is careful around the U.S. or intimidated by U.S. power is nonsense.”

French Ambassador to the U.S. Gérard Araud closed out the day with a briefing on how his country is implementing new tools to fight anti-Semitism. In particular, France is working with Internet service providers to remove anti-Semitic content from websites, he told the attendees.

“The Internet is changing the way hate is spread,” Araud said. “Anti-Semitism is not a French problem nor a European problem. It’s a global problem that requires a global strategy.”

JCC Spin Classes Cycle in Tandem with Ride for the Living

Ann Berey leads one of five spin classes OMJCC dedicated to cycle in solidarity with JCC Krakow’s Ride for the Living. (Melissa Gerr)

Ann Berey leads one of five spin classes OMJCC dedicated to cycle in solidarity with JCC Krakow’s Ride for the Living.
(Melissa Gerr)

Approximately 50 people at the JCC of Greater Baltimore at Owings Mills rode in solidarity with 85 bicyclists at the Ride for the Living, a 55-mile fundraising ride that began at Auschwitz-Birkenau and ended at the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow.

In the JCC spin class studio in Baltimore, with photos posted on the wall of Krakow participants for incentive, instructor Ann Berey led one of five classes the JCC devoted to the ride last weekend. Over loud driving music, Berey encouraged participants to “imagine you’re biking with them, look at their faces and get a visual.”

“I rode in memory of my grandparents, because they raised me,” said Galina Shkolnik, whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors. The Pikesville resident of more than 20 years brought family to the United States from Ukraine.

The Krakow ride, which honors the past Jewish history of the city and also celebrates Jewish life in Poland today, raises funds to help ensure the future of Krakow’s Jewish community. Last year’s participants raised enough to pay for Holocaust survivors from the Krakow JCC’s Senior Club to visit Israel. The group includes more than 100 survivors.

Amy R. Schwartz, fitness and wellness director at the Greater Baltimore JCC, said because they received the event information too late to send a cycling team to Krakow, they came up with the idea to dedicate spin classes to the cause and invite the community to ride in solidarity and raise funds that way.

Krakow’s Jewish Community Centre opened in April 2008 and serves as the focal point for the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow. It has more than 550 members and holds programs for holidays, weekly Shabbat dinners and services, among other activities. It also offers five levels of Hebrew school classes, kosher catering and an on-staff genealogist.

“The Ride for the Living is important because Jewish life in Poland is flourishing,” Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich said in a statement. “Jewish communities around Poland are growing, and while we acknowledge our loss as a people here, we can’t focus on only the loss.”

Donations are still being accepted at

American Dollars, Israeli Lives An up-close look at philanthropic efforts on behalf of Israel

The donation of an ambulance to the American Friends of Magen David Adom by lifelong Pikesville residents Bill and Karen Glazer adds one more tangible piece to the large network of philanthropic, financial and emotional bonds that connect Israel with the United States.

Magen David Adom, the national blood services center and emergency response team of Israel, is a state-mandated agency that receives no government funding in order to remain a member of the International Red Cross and Crescent movement. Despite this, MDA is responsible for responding to Israel’s 8 million citizens, regardless of their religion, in a time of need.

“We loved that we could honor our parents with this ambulance. We’d like to think they helped to mold us into who we are, and we want the people of Baltimore to know about the work Magen David Adom is doing,” said Bill Glazer. “Magen David Adom is very unique because it is funded by people who love Israel.”

061215_cover1Glazer attributes much of the support of MDA in Baltimore to Wally Kleid, a longtime member of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation who has been personally involved in rallying support in the past several years.

Moses Montefiore will host a celebration on June 15 at 7 p.m., honoring the Glazers and the donation as well as spreading the word about MDA’s work.

“Each shul has their causes that they take up. Magen David Adom has historically been a cause that [Moses Montefiore] has given to and the people of Baltimore have given to,” said the congregation’s Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro.

Every MDA ambulance that is donated to AFMDA is built in the United States as a retrofitted Chevrolet, transported by truck to the port of Baltimore and shipped to Israel with a dedication written on the side. The ambulance donated by the Glazers will be in honor of their parents, Ruth and Harry Glazer and Miriam and Lee Hack.

Although Kleid’s efforts have been successful, many like Glazer still describe the movement in Baltimore for AMFDA as “grass roots.”

According to statistics provided by AFMDA, Baltimore’s Jewish population of about 90,000 has, on average, donated $130,000 each year in the past decade.

Pittsburgh, with a Jewish population of 45,000, has averaged $30,000 per year.

These numbers stand in contrast to other cities such as Detroit, which has donated $8 million in the past decade with a Jewish population of 65,000. Since 1967, when the Michigan regional chapter of the AFMDA was established as a result of the Six Day War, the city of Detroit has donated 300 ambulances, which makes it the largest donor per capita compared with other U.S cities.

By comparison, over the past 10 years, Cleveland, with a Jewish population of 80,000, has donated $2.5 million to AFMDA.

Since AFMDA has limited staff members in any given city, funds distributed by Jewish federations and other pro-Israel organizations can be analyzed to get an overall picture of different communities’ efforts on behalf of the Jewish state.

This ambulance will be donated to AFMDA by Bill and Karen Glazer (inset) in honor of their  parents, Ruth and Harry Glazer and Miriam and Lee Hack, on June 15. (Provided)

This ambulance will be donated to AFMDA by Bill and Karen Glazer (inset) in honor of their
parents, Ruth and Harry Glazer and Miriam and Lee Hack, on June 15. (Provided)

Through a spokeswoman, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore said that of the $46.5 million it anticipates from the 2015 annual campaign, $10.5 million will be allocated toward Israel and overseas funding, 22 percent of the budget.

By comparison, according to the 2014 annual report from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, last year’s campaign raised $33 million and allocated $9.5 million to Israel and overseas funding, 28 percent of the budget.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh raised $23 million in its 2014 campaign. It allocated roughly $5.75 million toward Israel-related programs and $920,000 to overseas funding, 29 percent of the budget.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland raised $30.3 million in its last annual campaign and allocated $11.8 million to overseas Jewish agencies and services, but the breakdown did not clarify whether that money was from the campaign or other funds, such as grant money.

Bill and Karen Glazer  (provided)

Bill and Karen Glazer (provided)

Madelyn Cohen, the representative from AFMDA managing the June 15 event, said population is not the only factor to consider when comparing donations from different cities. One of the most powerful tools any fundraising organization has is its staff.

“The professional staff is critical to develop any area by working hand-in-hand with the local leadership,” said Cohen. “For any fundraising effort it works like a car. The local community leadership is the engine that drives the effort, and the professional staff steers it so it does not go off course.”

Of Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh, cities with long Jewish histories, Cleveland and Detroit have AFMDA representatives. Pittsburgh’s representative is based in Cleveland, and AFMDA does not have anyone based in, or covering, Baltimore.

Although exact breakdowns were not available, each federation specified that the money allocated for Israel and overseas funding is put toward programs such as Taglit-Birthright Israel and MASA as well as helping Jewry in other countries.

“If Israel is in crisis, we raise money for that particular response,” said Marc Terrill, president of The Associated. “Our ongoing rapport with Israel, since they have a strong government, is to respond to areas where we can have the most impact: social issues, immigration, vulnerable communities, etc.”

Aside from the money, Terrill believes the connection between Baltimore and Israel is more than financial.

“When people go to visit Israel, they feel like they have a home, particularly in [Baltimore’s sister city] Ashkelon,” said Terrill. “That’s the richness of our connection, building that peer-to-peer human connection.”

Jewish federations coordinate many efforts under the umbrella of the Jewish Federations of North America. David Brown, chair of Israel and overseas council for JFNA, echoed Terrill’s remarks, saying that he believes the connection between North America and Israel transcends dollars.

“This is an emotional connection. All Jews are responsible for one another,” said Brown. “Wherever Jews are in need, that is where JFNA and our systems respond.”

Brown noted that this past winter, money and other resources were sent to France in response to the supermarket shootings and the increased number of attacks on Jews. Additionally, a delegation from JFNA will be leaving for Ukraine in the upcoming weeks in response to the ongoing conflict there between pro-Russian separatists and the central government in Kiev.

“Jews are not necessarily the target of [the Ukrainian] conflict, but they are being displaced and affected by it,” said Brown.

The JFNA sends a portion of its funds to several partner organizations that distribute the money to a variety of causes assisting world Jewry, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, World ORT (it markets itself as the world’s largest Jewish education and vocational training nongovernmental organization) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Donations from the JFNA primarily subsidize the JDC’s core budget each year.

According to that organization’s annual reports, on average the JDC, which focuses on finding solutions to social issues such as immigration, unemployment and at-risk youth, has committed between $14 million and $15 million to Israel each year. However, the total money leveraged from that core budget has dropped significantly since 2008, when it generated $160 million from partners to the $111 million it generated in 2013.

Medics attend to an injured Israeli inside a MDA ambulance.

Medics attend to an injured Israeli inside a MDA ambulance. (photo provided)

When asked about the decline in donations, JDC spokesman Michael Geller explained the cause for the trend had two reasons: the economic recession that began in 2008 and the 2006 Lebanon war between Israel and Hezbollah. Since July 2014, the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas targets in Gaza, JDC’s donations surged again, with $7 million donated to date, according to Geller.

Military conflict plays no small part in why an organization like MDA is necessary. During last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, the organization’s leaders were forced to operate underground as Israel was attacked with rockets. Although they were able to operate effectively, the conflict became a wake-up call in terms of security. MDA is now working toward funding a subterranean complex that will allow more space for operations and provide protection from potential terrorist attacks.

Even though the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has been on the rise over the past several years, from college campuses to state legislative bodies, some organizations have seen an increase in support toward Israel, such as the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

“The BDS movement in our communities is understood for what it is,” said Ari Dallas, director of development for the Mid-Atlantic region of the FIDF. “It draws more support and people are more inclined to support Israel.” He added, “People who care about Israel understand that the BDS movement doesn’t have a valid case.”

Last month, the Illinois state House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibits state pensions from including companies in their portfolio that participate in the BDS movement. Although Indiana and Tennessee passed resolutions condemning BDS, Illinois is reportedly the first to take economic action against supporters.


*The numbers given for The Associated are estimates of their 2015 campaign, not records of the 2014 campaign.

Israel Bonds, an organization founded in 1951 with which Bill and Karen Glazer are actively involved, fights the BDS movement by acting as a broker/dealer and underwriter for government bonds from Israel to clients in the United States and worldwide.

The Glazers have gone on several trips to Israel, including one with Israel Bonds for the state’s 60th anniversary and one in 1976, which initially inspired them to become involved with AFMDA.

“We are fortunate that we live in a lifetime where we can experience Israel even though our parents and grandparents could not,” said Bill Glazer. “Our son had a bar mitzvah in Israel at the wailing wall with our whole family. We often point to that visit as our favorite.”

Shapiro, who recently visited Israel, remembers specifically seeing ambulances from MDA in action.

“I get the feeling one day I’ll be in Israel and see [a Baltimore] ambulance driving around,” said Shapiro. “It’s an amazing thought that this vehicle is going to Israel and savings lives.”

How much they can help people in Israel with this ambulance is ultimately what has driven the Glazers and their desire to get involved.

“What struck near and dear to me was how many gifts enable us to touch the lives of so many Israelis,” said Glazer. “This ambulance has been that for us. Magen David Adom has become an organization we see as so important, and word needs to get out.”

Marc Shapiro contributed to this article.

Five Objectionable Words J Street marshals troops to oppose trade language

J Street rallied its supporters last week, urging its members to call their members of Congress to decry language amended to a free trade bill being debated in the House of Representatives that it claimed would upend decades of U.S. policy toward Israeli settlements.

“New legislation in Congress is about to blur the important and long-standing distinction between Israel and the occupied West Bank,” the email to supporters from the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace organization began. “Now, a small provision in a new major trade bill wants to move U.S. policy beyond just defending Israel from BDS. Ignoring the Green Line, it asks that U.S. negotiators defend settlements in the West Bank — the same settlements that U.S. policy has opposed for decades.”

The small provision that compelled J Street’s call to action boils down to just five words — “in territories controlled by Israel” embedded in amendments authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Reps. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) that discourages European trading partners from engaging in boycotts of Israel or Israeli-controlled territories. The amendments passed unanimously through the House and Senate finance committees in April.

Alan Elsner, J Street’s vice president for communications, in a piece published by the Huffington Post, described the legislative language as a move by “Israeli rightists” to turn “almost 50 years of U.S. policy on its head.”

“This is a step the U.S. Congress should simply not take. Defend Israel against boycotts by all means — but don’t defend settlements that are throttling hopes of ever reaching peace,” he wrote.

Elsner clarified in a phone call that J Street has not taken a position on the larger issue of fast- track trade authority, which the Obama administration is pushing Congress to approve over the objections of many Democrats led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. J Street’s goal is to see “those five words come out of the bill.”

Roskam defended the necessity of the anti-BDS language in a recent op-ed piece published in The Wall Street Journal.

Despite hundreds of phone calls Elsner asserted had been made by J Street supporters, it is unlikely that the language pertaining to Israeli settlements will be altered or removed.

Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said, “It’s like pushing a rock up a hill. The [White House] may be displeased, [the language] may not be perfect, but they’re not going to let this issue mess with the president’s legacy.”

Fast-track authority has plenty of problems outside of any objections to the anti-BDS amendment, Miller pointed out.

The bill, which passed the Senate in May with bipartisan support in a 62-37 vote, faces fierce opposition from Democrats in the House — only 17 out of 188 Democrats have come out publicly in support of the measure. Labor unions alongside some environmental groups vehemently and vocally oppose the deal.

Hopkins Student Attending Jerusalem Summit

Aliza Waxman (Provided)

Aliza Waxman

Johns Hopkins University doctoral candidate Aliza Waxman will bring years of experience working on the issue of global health in three different continents when she attends the 2015 ROI Community Summit in Jerusalem this month.

The summit will bring 150 Jewish innovators with a wide range of skills and backgrounds to the Israeli capital city to discuss, experiment and challenge each other on how they can strengthen the world’s future Jewish community.

“We are proud that the ROI Summit has become an exceptional forum to convene some of the most promising young Jews from around the world,” said Justin Korda, executive director of ROI Community. “This group of inspiring leaders has incredible potential to infuse new energy into the global Jewish community.”

Waxman spent eight years working in HIV/AIDS prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa and is interested in international assistance for developing countries.

“Growing up in Boston, everyone looked like me and had similar access to education. It was a privileged upbringing compared to most of the world,” said Waxman. “When I went to college and was exposed to African studies and sociology of developing countries, it opened my eyes to the whole field of work in international development.”

Although she is now studying public health at Hopkins, Waxman realized early on that if she wanted to take this up as a career, she would need to open the right doors before she graduated. In 2006, she went to Peru and volunteered at a prison and orphanage. When she got back to the U.S. she interned with the Aids Action Committee of Boston.

“HIV is such a large problem that affects such a large population in the world and the reason for it is so multifaceted,” said Waxman. “The stigmas have been a barrier to prevention. There is a fear of not wanting to be associated with something because it is a STD but also because it affects such a marginalized society.”

Waxman’s passion for the issue of global health is matched by her Jewish convictions, she said. She sees the summit as another opportunity to connect her ethnicity and her career.

“My advice to other young Jews would be, we have a lot of opportunities to make the world a better place,” she said, “and now is the time to take advantage of it.”

Cardin Scholarships Awarded to 72 Special Needs Students

Special needs students from across the state, including 18 from the greater Baltimore region, were awarded Michael Cardin Scholarships.

Announced on Monday, the annual awards — established in 1998 following the death of Sen. Ben Cardin’s son, Michael — are managed by the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities. The organization’s executive director, Dorie Flynn, said this year’s class of 72 students was the largest ever.

“We obviously want to reward students that have come through struggle and have done well,” she said. “I get thank-you notes all the time. I’m just overwhelmed by how grateful these families are.”

Flynn said the scholarships can be used toward a variety of future educational opportunities, such as camp, day school, conservatory or a four-year university. Tracy Brown said her 17-year-old son, Alex, one of the winners, was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 and that he has grown tremendously since enrolling in the Forbush School at Glyndon.

“He’s just a really smart kid, and he’s come a long long way,” she said.

Brown said she was “super duper excited” three weeks ago when she found out Alex was selected as one of the winners. He will put his scholarship money toward attending the Michael Phelps Swim School. Brown said her son has been an avid swimmer from a young age.

Patti Wilbur, mother of winner Scott “Sandy” Wilbur, said she found out about the scholarship through an email from one of his school’s social workers. Sandy, 17, has been at the Baltimore Lab School since he began struggling with a learning disability in first grade.

In late April, they were notified Sandy had been awarded $3,000, the equivalent of two semesters’ tuition at Goucher College.

“We were absolutely thrilled because tuition is just so high,” she said. “It was really a gift for him to be awarded the scholarship and we feel very honored and grateful.”

Wilbur said Sandy is hoping to major in writing at Goucher.