Rabbis on Trump: ‘We Have to Stand Up for Civil Liberties’

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An attentive audience at Chizuk Amuno Congregation listened as four area rabbis discussed Jewish values and the recent presidential election.

Rabbi Ron Shulman, clad in a flashy suit and wearing reading glasses, took to the lectern with a folded-up piece of paper to which he rarely needed to refer.

He might have forecasted the emotion that would soon accompany his words, drawing on similar sentiments the crowd shared.

A little more than a minute into his speech on Nov. 16 at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, where Shulman has served as senior rabbi for the last 12 years, he paused for a brief moment to collect his thoughts. Shulman expressed profound disappointment in citing Israel Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri’s excitement with the surprising election of Donald Trump as the United States’ 45th president.

“With the election of Donald Trump, the Messiah will be arriving,” Shulman said, referencing Deri’s words, “and the Messiah’s first task will not be world peace, solving hunger [or] healing the sick. The Messiah’s first task in the shadow of the election of Donald Trump will be to rid the world of Conservative and Reform Judaism.”

That statement elicited gasps from people throughout the audience, many of whom expressed great concerns about Trump, his vision for the United States and the anti-Semitic rhetoric that surrounded his campaign.

Those feelings of angst, doubt and uncertainty echoed throughout the packed room of more than 300 attendees for the final lecture in a four-part series entitled “Debate & Decision: Thinking about the Election with Jewish Values.”

Shulman and fellows Rabbis Daniel Burg of Beth Am Synagogue, Jay Goldstein of Beth Israel Congregation and Steve Schwartz of Beth El Congregation each reflected on the biggest lessons they learned throughout what many see as the most divisive election cycle in recent memory. They also fielded questions from attendees in a question-and-answer session moderated by Neil Rubin, a Jewish history teacher at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University.

Burg said he has many reservations about Trump, ranging from his perceived notion of the president-elect being xenophobe who will push anti-immigration policy and the white nationalist rhetoric he’s seen from Trump and his campaign.

While Burg noted Trump received votes for both “dastardly and pragmatic reasons,” he said it’s important to understand why people were willing to look past Trump’s shortcomings at the ballot box.

“[Trump is] a narcissist for God’s sake. He has to somehow fill that hole in him that pushes him to do things that he does,” Burg said. “I don’t accept that. We need to be responsible for our actions and for our words. He has said and done some pretty terrible things.”

Some feel Trump gave a true voice to those who have become fed up with the political establishment since he himself is an outsider with no public office experience.

It wasn’t about the fancy language or worry about political correctness, but rather that Trump presented a message that it is time for the government to work for the people, not the reverse, others said.

Schwartz, senior rabbi at Beth El, said it is the responsibility of a community to have institutions that will care for the poor, marginalized and the underprivileged.

For Schwartz, Jewish values will be more important than ever in the next few years. Citing the Torah, Schwartz said it’s his interpretation that abortion and access to affordable health care should be provided to all, which starkly contrasts from the views Trump has taken on those two hot-button social issues.

“My general reading of the Torah is that is a progressive-reading document,” Schwartz said. “In my view, it is that social agenda.”

Goldstein, meanwhile, said he had a tough time taking Trump seriously in large part because of the unprecedented, polarizing fashion in which he ran his campaign.

With Trump set to get inaugurated on Jan. 20, Goldstein said he hopes and prays that the nation’s next commander-in-chief will take his new responsibility with the upmost care and respect.

In the meantime, Goldstein said, he will continue to search for answers as to how to move on from such a stunning result.

“We are here to try to figure out how to convert our mourning into meaning,” Goldstein said. “The obligation for Jews is to keep our Jewish principles clear and strive to be a mensch and have the strength to continue going forward.”

At a time when Shulman believes the country is as fractured as it was after the end of the Civil War more than 150 years ago, he feels the best way to move forward is with vigilance.

“We have to stand up, stand up for civil liberties of all Americans,” Shulman said. “That’s what we do as Jews.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Love, Acceptance: Our Neighborly Pledge

From left: Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim; Rabbi Robert Tobin of Temple B’nai Shalom in West Orange, N.J.; Rabbi Gila Ruskin of Temple Adas Shalom; Rabbi Geoff Basik of Kol HaLev Synagogue; and Rabbi Steven Schwartz of Beth El Congregation, who moderated the discussion. (Photo by Gail Lipsitz)

From left: Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim; Rabbi Robert Tobin of Temple B’nai Shalom in West Orange, N.J.; Rabbi Gila Ruskin of Temple Adas Shalom; Rabbi Geoff Basik of Kol HaLev Synagogue; and Rabbi Steven Schwartz of Beth El Congregation, who moderated the discussion. (Photo by Gail Lipsitz)

V’ahavta l’reiacha Kamocha, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is a basic tenet of Judaism. Nearly every Jewish child is sure to have heard the story of Hillel teaching a gentile the entire Torah as he stood on one foot.

On Nov. 20, Beth El Congregation invited an interdenominational panel of rabbis to come together for a symposium about what it means to love one’s neighbor.

“It is really beautiful, even if you learn absolutely nothing from this morning, that such an event took place and that we got together in an attempt to learn about loving one another,” began Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim. “Even if we leave not loving one another at all. That is not the goal. At the end of the day, it is amazing to see that we really do agree on many things, especially those things that are fundamental to our Judaism and our identity.”

The central text for the discussion was Leviticus 19:18: “You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your own people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Silber first addressed the passage in terms of how two famous teachers, Shammai and Hillel, taught the passage to disciples, citing that many disciples came to Shammai with ridiculous requests, including one from a gentile who asked Shammai to teach him the Torah while the prospective convert stood on one foot. Shammai chased this man away, but Hillel, who accepted the request, told the man the simple ideal which we all know of today, to treat others the way you wish to be treated.

“Part of the beauty of our religion is that we are all a work in progress, there is no expectation of perfection because perfection is unattainable,” said Silber. “Real Judaism is all about perpetual growth and that’s all that God wants from us. If you can’t love people, you can’t love God for the simple reason that people are tangible. If I can’t relate to that what is in front of me, how can I love and relate to something so amorphous and esoteric and unknown as God?”

“This command is not asking you to feel good,” said Rabbi Robert Tobin of Conservative synagogue B’nai Shalom in West Orange, N.J. “It is not asking about your convenience or personal motivation; it is more in the category for the command for tzedakah. I don’t care how you feel about the person — the person needs help, it’s the right thing to do, you’re going to give to them. That’s why it is tzedakah, not charity. It has nothing to do with pity, it is about justice.”

Tobin went on to explain that from a legal lens, the Torah is very concerned about actions: Somebody has to do something to somebody else. There are commands to love in Leviticus and the Shema and then a command to love strangers as yourself. In order for that to occur, Tobin asserted that one must have an honest relationship of trust, rebuke, love and growth with God. He cited the passage, “For you were strangers in the realm of Egypt, you shall love the stranger because you were the stranger,” as reason enough to follow this commandment.

Rabbi Gila Ruskin of Temple Adas Shalom looked at the passage in terms of those in the community who are mentally ill or are physically ailing.

“In 2016, you rarely encounter mentally ill people in a hospital,” she said. “They are in the world, either in prison or out in the world. However, those of us in the Jewish world encounter mentally ill people all of the time. But do we apply loving your neighbor as yourself to those in our community who are struggling with depression, addiction, psychosis, speaking disorders? Do we greet them with love and acceptance?”

She introduced the audience to a prayer that is meant to be recited when one sees someone who appears to be different and asked the audience what they thought about the concept of saying that prayer.

“To me, that is our challenge, making it something positive. The other challenge is saying it. Watching a mother pull her children away from someone who is a dwarf or an amputee or is speaking to themselves, what if she taught her children the bracha instead?” Ruskin asked. “What if our approach was to celebrate the diversity of human creation and the different kinds of people? It should be something that we rejoice and celebrate rather than saying ‘that poor thing’ and having pity.”

“Don’t be dismissive of any person just because they don’t look like you or practice like you or believe like you,” said Silber. “It doesn’t mean that they don’t have their place or their image of God. Myself and my fellow panelists, we have some serious disagreements. But that’s OK, because the goal is not to convince or proselytize, the goal is to love. Until the day that comes that we all love each other, the goal is to respect, to agree to disagree with dignity and recognize that my views are not superior or inferior to yours, to try and somehow find out that which we have in common than focusing on that which divides.”

Rabbi Geoff Basik of Reconstructionist synagogue Kol Halev wrapped up the symposium admirably, concluding, “The way to God is through each other.”

He chose to lead the attendees in a kavanah introduced by kabbalists on Safed, which translates, “I stand here, ready in body and mind, to take upon myself the mitzvah, ‘You shall love your fellow human being as yourself,’ and by this merit may I open up my mouth.” According to commentary on the kavanah, “only by accepting ourselves are we allowed to enter the human community of prayer.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

A Labor of Love Beth Israel Congregation, rabbi celebrate 'joyful' milestones

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Rabbi Jay and Cindy Goldstein.

Sixty years ago, 10 young Jewish families gathered to create their own community and place of worship and study. That was 38 years before the 1994 opening of the current $2.7 million building on Mitzvah Lane that is home to Beth Israel Congregation.

What started out in the home of one of the founding members as a place for close friends to observe their religion has grown into a thriving congregation that remains a cornerstone of the Northwest Baltimore Jewish community.

Earlier this month, Beth Israel members and clergy joyfully paid tribute to six decades of an evolving Jewish community in grand fashion with a family weekend celebration at the synagogue on Crondall Lane in Owings Mills.

With several hundred guests pouring in to share what Beth Israel has meant to them, the diamond anniversary event also recognized Rabbi Jay Goldstein for his 20 years of service to the synagogue.

“There’s a certain wonderful blessing when you are able to come together and celebrate 60 years of a synagogue and the blessing that I’ve had spending 20 years at Beth Israel,” Goldstein said. “So, as we look back on six decades and to our future, we must continue to do all what we can here at Beth Israel to involve and entice those who, for whatever reason, have become distant from our warm, meaning laden and accessible tradition.”

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Beth Israel congregants pack the shul’s 400-plus-seat sanctuary to hear Rabbi Jay Goldstein and others speak at the congregation’s 60th anniversary celebration.

As it moves into its seventh decade, Beth Israel continues to distinguish itself as a hub for attracting young families, offering a top-notch Hebrew school and connecting members of all ages to the larger Jewish world through outreach and programming.

“This is like our second home,” said Ellie Cohen, who has belonged to the congregation for about 35 years. “Beth Israel is like our family. It’s had a very special place in my heart for so many years.”

More than a year-and-a-half of meticulous planning culminated with a weekend of special Shabbat services, a special dinner honoring Goldstein, a time-capsule burial and the completion of a mosaic.

Longtime Beth Israel members Howard and Sandy Bernheim and Allen and Ellie Cohen, co-chairs of the 60th anniversary committee, were tasked with all the details, spending countless hours stressing over the details of how to put such an event together.

Their goal throughout the planning process, they said, simply was to put together a joyous occasion that would appeal to the entire congregation and have members talking for years to come.

“It was a lot of work but a labor love,” said Allen Cohen, who was president of Beth Israel’s Brotherhood from 1997 to 1999. “This was an opportunity to get people together for a sichma and happy things.”

At one of the Shabbat services, for instance, Goldstein gracefully shared the pulpit with seven members who were selected from each of the congregation’s six decades, including the 1950s, to speak on their memories of the synagogue.

“I’m still energized by the opportunities and challenges each and every day.”
— Rabbi Jay Goldstein

Goldstein and his wife, Cindy, were also presented with a mosaic that members put together, including preschoolers and learning lab students, as well as an artist in Baltimore’s sister city of Ashkelon. It featured a Shabbat table, the Goldsteins and their three kids dancing on a talis and the Hebrew phrase “Shalom, shalom, larachoke v’lakorov,” which means “peace, peace be upon those that are far and close.”

“I don’t even know where to really start,” said Sandy Bernheim, who was president of Beth Israel from 2007 to 2009. “That’s why this is so important, because it marks us recognizing the passage of time and accomplishments of Beth Israel.”

By Baltimore standards, Beth Israel is still considered a relatively young congregation. Nonetheless, the mark it has left on the Greater Baltimore Jewish community stretches well beyond the walls of the 87,000-square-foot building that houses the synagogue.

“There’s a lot of history here,” said Beth Israel president Randi Buergenthal, who joined the congregation in 1997. “Everything Beth Israel is and stands for really is a wonderful statement to who we are as a congregation and who Jay and Cindy are to the community.”

Although the mission of Beth Israel remains the same — to bring families and individuals together for the purpose of worship, study and community — a lot has changed through the years.

In those early days, the Conservative synagogue existed only in the hearts of a dedicated few. Alvin Sandler and his wife led the tiny congregation, which held its first public meeting of what was then known as the Liberty Road Conservative Congregation at the Randallstown Community Hall.

In 1957, the congregation was officially renamed Beth Israel and became affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. During the next several decades, the congregation experienced rapid growth, ascending to one of the three largest Conservative congregations in Baltimore.

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Beth Israel members and clergy break ground at the congregation’s then-new home on Liberty Road in Randallstown, which served the synagogue from 1968 to 1994.

Beth Israel remained a fixture in the Randallstown area for 38 years, peaking with a membership of 1,100 families in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

But when droves of Jewish families started relocating to the Owings Mills-Reisterstown corridor from Randallstown, Beth Israel found itself at a crossroad. Membership numbers started to dip, and the congregation enlisted the help of the clergy and some longtime members to search for answers.

Howard Gartner, a Beth Israel member of more than 40 years, was tapped by Sandler, serving in his second stint as Beth Israel’s president in 1993, to head up a committee to find a new location for the synagogue.

Gartner, 67, who works in real estate management and property management, helped broker a deal after intense negotiations to sell Beth Israel’s property on Liberty Road to Randallstown’s Colonial Baptist Church. Beth Israel then parlayed that sum to purchase a vacant factory on Crondall Lane from Mine Safety Appliances, a Pittsburgh company that made hearing aid and pacemakers as well as breathing apparatuses for miners.

For Gartner, the chance to revel in the glory inside the current location of the synagogue he was such a big part in making a reality was an especially meaningful and nostalgic moment.

“We’ve always tried to be forward looking and have always had strategic planning going on to try to see where we will be years into the future,” Gartner said. “It’s a challenge to adapt to the changing affiliations, but I think [Beth Israel] has always handled anything thrown [its] way by having great people and decision-makers.”

Indeed, these are just some of the challenges that attracted Goldstein to Beth Israel when he arrived at the congregation as rabbi in August 1996, less than two years after its then new home opened.

“This is like our second home. Beth Israel is like our family. It’s had a very special place in my heart for so many years.”
— Ellie Cohen

Prior to joining Beth Israel, Goldstein was already a well-established member of the Jewish clergy with more than two decades of experience. He served as rabbi for 12 years at Temple B’nai Abraham in Meriden, Conn.

A native of Chicago, Goldstein earned his undergraduate degree in Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He completed his master’s degree in theology, received his honorary doctorate of divinity and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

Goldstein, 58, a past president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, said he was drawn to Beth Israel in part because of its older members with a history of involvement in Jewish life. He was also energized by Beth Israel’s emphasis on attracting young people into the mix.

Perhaps most importantly, Goldstein and his wife, Cindy, 56, sought to provide their three children, David, 29, Josh, 26, and Shira, 23, with a rich Jewish lifestyle in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. Cindy Goldstein is also an active member of the Jewish community, having worked at the Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center since 1998. She is  the organization’s executive director.

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The Goldstein family, from left: David and his wife Laura, Shira, Rabbi Jay Goldstein, Cindy Goldstein, Cindy’s parents Chuck and Ellen Donen and Josh.

“Really, it was the right time and right opportunity for us to give our children the experience in a broader Jewish community,” Goldstein said. “It also gave me the opportunity to work with a large growing congregation and to help mold and shape a congregation in a changing environment, both in the community and Jewish world.”

In its Owings Mills neighborhood, at the center of an area of high growth for the Jewish community, Beth Israel has found a way to attract young couples.

Marc and Randi Hertzberg, both 49, joined Beth Israel about 15 years ago in part because of the proximity to their Owings Mills residence and the emphasis placed on getting lifelong commitments from unaffiliated young couples and families.

“At the time, there were a lot of young families joining, and we wanted to join somewhere where we could be with people with younger kids,” said Marc Hertzberg, who is set to take over as Beth Israel’s next president in May.

Randi Hertzberg, a native of New Jersey, was drawn to the synagogue because of the family-friendly atmosphere she believes Beth Israel promotes.

“I think there has been a lot of innovative programing with the religious school and other aspects of the congregation,” Randi Hertzberg said. “Beth Israel is doing a really good job of accommodating today’s families. I think the future is very bright.”

Just last year, Beth Israel made a big boost to broaden its offerings of the Joseph and Corinne Schwartz Preschool at Beth Israel.

The program was accredited by the Maryland State Department of Education in June 2015, making it the second accredited Jewish preschool in the Greater Baltimore area and the only one in the Owings Mills-Reisterstown corridor.

“It’s about going above and beyond your licensing standards and requirements,” preschool director Rachael Schwartz told the JT in December 2015. “[Accreditation standards] represent the highest quality, and they also reflect research-based best practices for early childhood.”

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Rabbi Jay Goldstein speaks before members at Beth Israel.

It’s initiatives like these that Goldstein plans to remain actively involved with as he continues pushing Beth Israel for what he hopes is a prosperous future. Under his steady guidance, Beth Israel maintains a membership of 650 to 700 households.

He said he is just as passionate about his work at Beth Israel as he has ever been and doesn’t see himself giving up his place on the pulpit anytime soon.

“I’m still energized by the opportunities and challenges each and every day,” Goldstein said. “I think if that wasn’t the case — and I think a lot of my colleagues would agree with this — then we wouldn’t stay in what can be a very challenging profession.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Bernie Is Back Bernie Sanders reflects on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and lessons of 2016 Election

With his victory in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders is the first Jewish American to win a primary. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images))

U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images))

“I am not a liberal, I am a progressive,” pronounced Sen. Bernie Sanders during a student-submitted Q&A conducted by Johns Hopkins University president Ronald Daniels.

What became something of an open, periodically funny and altogether forthright conversation between Sanders and Daniels followed the former presidential hopeful’s hour-long speech about his recently published book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.”

As a stop on his ongoing cross-country book tour as hosted by Hopkins’ Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium in partnership with the school’s Foreign Affairs Symposium, Sanders’ speaking engagement on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Shriver Hall was introduced as part of “a forum for the free exchange of ideas.”

Sanders, an Independent, has represented his state of Vermont as senator since 2007 and was narrowly denied the honor of becoming the Democrat nominee for president and later the first Jewish person to hold that office in American history.

He used his global stage as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nominee to articulate the primal rage felt by many working class and poverty-stricken Americans largely neglected by the mainstream media, which Sanders has been highly critical of in the past and continued to excoriate at the Hopkins event.

Sanders is a kind of latter-day incarnation of popular irascible 1977 Academy Award-winning film “Network” character Howard Beale who spouted out those immemorial lines, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” to a rapt national audience.

Speculation for Sanders’ loss in the primary election to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranges from a putative “media blackout” or outright mockery of his grassroots, anti-establishment campaign to allegations of subterfuge perpetrated by the Democratic National Committee that may have favored Clinton.

Speaking out on such issues — particularly his profoundly negative take on the manipulative power of the media to siphon and filter the news inappropriately — Sanders suggested that, ironically, it may have been Donald Trump’s tapping into the same entrenched economic frustration and sense of being ignored Sanders expressed that allowed the former to reign triumphant in the 2016 presidential election.

A packed house awaits U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at Johns Hopkins University symposium on Nov. 17. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

A packed house awaits U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Johns Hopkins University symposium on Nov. 17. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

“There’s a beautiful world out there that the media ignores,” Sanders declared with his characteristic impassioned contrarianism that has made for a beloved pop culture image a la comedian Larry David’s portrayal of the senator on a series of immemorial “Saturday Night Live” sketches.

This was the crux of Sanders’ message to the audience of mostly Hopkins students — the notion of the power of manipulation and control the media has over not only how critical issues are presented to the populace, but, indeed, which “critical” issues are presented in the first place.

It’s an important thread in his book, as well, and a frightening proposition considering Sanders’ educated opinion that the recent presidential election became fodder for the media’s (and, by osmosis, the electorate’s) growing obsession with what he called “gossip” and the personalities of Trump and Clinton rather than the issues that needed to be illuminated and properly deliberated.

“Politics is not about the candidates,” Sanders said. “It is about the needs of the people.”

Sanders went on to say that he discusses this crucial point throughout his book and the idea that “we need to discuss the real issues in an intelligent and respectful way.”

“The message” is, in fact, “the most important part of any campaign,” Sanders said. “What do you believe in? What will you fight for?”

What Sanders believes in is something he said he’s been fighting for his entire adult life: “The real pain of the people.”

As has become well-known over the course of Sanders’ precipitous rise in popularity, the senator is here speaking of those outside of the so-called “1 percent” or other elite circles he has decried for being an integral part of both Clinton’s and Trump’s campaigns.

“A great nation is not judged by how many billionaires it has, but how it treats its most vulnerable people,” Sanders said, wrapping up the central theme of his book.

Representing “the most vulnerable people” has been a continuous touchstone of Sanders’ political tenure. He has recently criticized Trump’s appointment of former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon, who Sanders has referred to as “a racist individual,” as chief strategist for the white house.

“In a democratic society we can disagree all we want over issues, but racism and bigotry cannot be part of any public policy,” Sanders said according to a Nov. 17 report by JTA. “The appointment of Mr. Bannon by Mr. Trump must be rescinded.”

When asked about the obvious question of such implicit divisiveness in the country by Daniels during his Q&A, Sanders — again with his signature, mop-haired and disputatious aplomb — said he questions just how divided the country really is at this time.

Sanders placed much of the blame on the media and the so-called “billionaire class” for perpetuating the notion that the U.S. is as divided as has been claimed.

After having traveled around the country meeting countless constituents and their families as well as young children, when it comes to such topics as economics, gun control, abortion or LGBTQ rights, Sanders truly believes there is less contention about these concerns and, if anything, merely division on how to implement needful guidance in dealing with such concerns he knows are imperative to all Americans.

Indeed, it’s for this reason that Sanders self-qualifies as a progressive as opposed to a liberal (referring, for example, to Hillary Clinton as “a strong liberal”).

For Sanders, a liberal is interested in social reform and soi-disant “social justice.” In his mind, a progressive such as himself is interested in these points … but also does not want to forget the economic concerns of the country, something he believes was largely missed by Clinton’s campaign and, again, may have led to the resounding win for Trump.

Though there may not have been a major glass ceiling shattered in the 2016 presidential election — by either a woman or Jew — Sanders undeniably cracked it and established that it is indeed possible to arise to one of the highest political platforms in the nation without the need of corporate sponsors or direct ties to the political establishment.

And, further proving his chutzpah and personal connection to the people listening in Shriver Hall and across the nation, Sanders can have a little fun with it all as well.

When asked at the end of the Q&A by Daniels what Sanders thinks about David’s caricaturing him on “SNL”, Sanders was quick to respond: “Actually, I am Larry David.”

The JTA contributed to this article.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

New Howard County Sheriff Appointed

James Fitzgerald (Screenshot: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/jud/sheriffs/html/msa15142.html)

James Fitzgerald stepped down after a report detailed alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks and threatening behavior. (Screenshot: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/jud/sheriffs/html/msa15142.html)

Gov. Larry Hogan on Nov. 10 announced the appointment of William McMahon to replace Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald, whose alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks and threatening behavior were detailed in a September report.

McMahon, 54, a Republican, most recently served as the acting executive director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions and director of its Leadership Development Institute after spending 28 years with the Howard County Police Department.

He was the county’s chief of police from 2006 to 2014, gaining recognition as the face of the department during the investigations of the fatal shootings at The Mall in Columbia two years ago before retiring from the force.

“Bill McMahon’s distinguished service and extensive law enforcement experience make him the best choice to serve and protect the citizens of Howard County,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “Bill has a keen understanding of law enforcement at every level, and I am confident he will be a strong leader for Howard County. I offer him my sincere congratulations.”

The county’s Office of Human Rights released a 48-page report Sept. 1 that detailed Fitzgerald referring to former County Executive Ken Ulman as “little Kenny Jew-boy” as well as derogatory comments about African-Americans and women. Fitzgerald, a Democrat who was serving his third term, was also accused of retaliating against deputies who did not support his re-election in 2010.

In mid-October, Fitzgerald resigned from his post in the face of intensifying pressure from county and federal officials and residents calling for him to step aside.

Prior to Fitzgerald’s resignation, County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, asked the county’s representatives in Annapolis to explore whether the General Assembly could impeach Fitzgerald.

Kittleman threw his support behind Hogan’s selection in a prepared statement, saying, “I applaud the governor for moving quickly with this appointment and making such an appropriate and thoughtful choice. Bill McMahon has demonstrated he has the temperament, dedication and leadership qualities to lead the Sheriff’s Office and will help restore confidence to both that office and the residents of Howard County.”

McMahon, meanwhile, said he was “honored and humbled” by Hogan for the appointment.

“As a 30-year resident of the county, I am deeply committed to upholding our laws and working to ensure the safety of all citizens of our county and our great state,” McMahon said in a prepared statement.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

County Schools to Remain Closed on Rosh Hashanah

The Baltimore County Public School Board approved its 2017-18 academic year calendar on Nov. 9 to comply with Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order that public schools open after Labor Day.

The approved calendar was the only one of the three options that complied with Hogan’s order while keeping schools closed on Rosh Hashanah.

“We appreciate that the members of the board heard our discussion about logistical and operational issues that would arise should schools remain open on Rosh Hashanah,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “We would like to thank them for making the right decision for the large population of Jewish students and teachers in the school system.”

The newly approved calendar’s one notable disadvantage is that it only plans for five inclement weather days as opposed to seven proposed in other versions of the calendar. In the case that the school system is forced to close for more days, additional days are planned to be added to the end of the school year as opposed to making spring or winter break shorter for students and staff.

Daniel Nozick

Ethiopian-Born Miss Israel Tells Students: ‘Take Every Chance You Get’

Titi Aynaw, shown meeting President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in 2013, has embraced being Jewish “100 percent.” (Photo by Avi Ohayon)

Titi Aynaw, shown meeting President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in 2013, has embraced being Jewish “100 percent.” (Photo by Avi Ohayon)

Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, an Israel advocate, television personality and the first Ethiopian-Israeli model to be crowned Miss Israel, visited two Maryland universities last week to give students a different point of view of the Jewish state — one from a woman who grew up sometimes hiding her Jewish identity in Ethiopia and who later was able to fully embrace her Judaism in Israel.

“The goal of my tour is to talk about my life story and about Israel from my point of view,” said Aynaw, 25. “The idea is to bring students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, together to learn about Israel from a point of view that they do not know.”

She spoke at the University of Maryland, College Park on Nov. 9 and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Nov. 10 as part of a collaboration with the Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International.

Aynaw was born in a small village in Ethiopia. As a child, her family had no electricity, and she walked around barefoot. Her father died before she was old enough to remember, and her mother passed away before she became a teenager. At the age of 12, she moved to Israel to live with her grandfather in Netanya.

“I grew up always knowing that I was Jewish,” said Aynaw, “but in Ethiopia, being Jewish was only OK part of the time. Sometimes, you had to be sure to hide it, but it was nothing like in Europe during the Holocaust.”

Aynaw, who was crowned Miss Israel in 2013, had to learn everything all over again when she moved to Israel. It took time for her to adapt to the culture. “Coming from the third world to the first world is such a change,” she said. “You know, I had to wear shoes every day in Israel, I had to get used to even these small things. The first time I was in a classroom was when I was 12.”

However, Aynaw learned Hebrew quickly and began to adapt. “To be Jewish in Ethiopia is not something that you yell on the streets; you keep it in your home. Coming to Israel, I became 100 percent Jewish. When we have holidays, the entire country celebrates, not just the Jews. There are synagogues everywhere. I do not need to hide the fact that I am a Jew, I feel confident and protected.”

In her time in the Israel Defense Forces, Aynaw became an officer, commanding 300 men and women.
“You need to keep dreaming and do your best,” Aynaw told students. “My life has not been easy at all. It is not easy growing up without parents, without support, without someone to tell you what to do. Sometimes, it is really lonely, but this is life, and you need to continue to chase your dreams.”

“My story is not about ‘to be Miss Israel, a black Miss Israel,’ it is about to dream and to take every chance that you get in your life, to take life into your own hands. This is my message,” she concluded.
These days, Aynaw is supporting her own project in Netanya. The Titi Project provides extracurricular activities and enrichment to 66 Ethiopian kids residing in Netanya who come from from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Aynaw wants to expand the project and help give other kids the educational opportunities that she lacked growing up. She hopes that her tour will help fundraise for her cause.

“In my community and my neighborhood, the project keeps these kids away from trouble,” she said. “They have too much free time — these children’s families work a lot so that they have enough money, leaving these kids unattended. The idea is to keep them busy. My kids have new skills now. If they were bad at math or the computer three years ago, today they are the best in their class. It is something that I am really proud of.”

For more information on The Titi Project, visit netanyafoundation.org/the-project.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Allen Named Director of Teen Organization

Signaling its continued growth and increased opportunities to support Jewish teens in 10 local communities across the United States, the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative announced that it has hired Sara Allen to serve as its first full-time director. The collaborative is comprised of 15 national and local funders committed to learning together, to sharing best practices and to investing in community-based Jewish teen education and engagement initiatives in these 10 collaborative communities across the country.

Allen has nearly two decades of experience in both the private sector and Jewish organizational worlds, with expertise in strategic planning, marketing and development, millennial engagement and leadership development and new technology. Most recently, she was senior vice president at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, where, among other responsibilities, she led the multimillion dollar NuRoots engagement initiative. Prior to her work there, Allen consulted for Nintendo of America, Skype Technologies and NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, among other organizations and companies.

Along with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, members of the Funder Collaborative include Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston); the Jewish Community Federation & Endowment Fund (San Francisco); the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati; the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta; the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; the Jewish Federation of San Diego County; the Jim Joseph Foundation; the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah; the Marcus Foundation; the Rose Community Foundation (Denver); the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; and the UJA-Federation of New York.

Two Firms Join to Form Foundry19

2fold Collective, a design and brand consulting firm, and Foxtrot Media, Inc., a Web development and website hosting firm, have joined forces to form Foundry19.

2fold Collective, founded in 2012 by Bryna Colley and Rebecca Biello, is a Baltimore-based creative firm that specializes in seamlessly integrating with internal marketing efforts, delivering ongoing creative support when and where companies need it most. Its growing reputation for unique digital design and writing for the Web led them to seek a Web development partner that could execute their designs with superior accuracy.

Foxtrot Media, Inc., founded by Brian Singer in 2005, specializes in custom-built WordPress websites and hosts and maintains more than 120 WordPress sites for clients. Its reputation as a firm that can quickly and efficiently build custom, pixel- perfect solutions makes Foxtrot the perfect complement to 2fold in this joint venture.

During the past three years, Foxtrot and 2fold have partnered on multiple websites for a variety of clients including Johns Hopkins Health Care, Friends School of Baltimore, Greenspring Associates and DataNetworks.

Sholk Elected to AABGU Board

Baltimore resident and venture capitalist Bruce Sholk was elected to the board of directors of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Sholk is president and managing partner of the venture capital firm Axcel Partners.

“Bruce’s long-term commitment to Hillel International, JAFI and the Jewish federation system has benefited people in Baltimore, his home community, as well as people throughout the United States, Israel and countries around the world,” said AABGU president Toni Young.

Sholk served as the chair of the executive committee of Hillel International and serves on its board. He is the past board chair of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

He is a founding board member of Tamid, a campus-based organization that connects students to Israel through their interest in business. Sholk is deputy chair of the Israel Engagement Committee for the Jewish Agency for Israel and served on its board of governors from 2005 to 2013. Sholk also served on the boards of Camp Shoresh and Capital Camps and was a longtime board member of the Jewish Federations of North America.