Is Jerusalem in Israel?

Ari Zivotofsky and his son  Menachem leave the Supreme Court Building after the justices debated Zivotofsky v. Kerry. (Photo by Suzanne Pollak)

Ari Zivotofsky and his son Menachem leave the Supreme Court Building after the justices debated Zivotofsky v. Kerry.
(Photo by Suzanne Pollak)

All a 12-year-old boy born in Jerusalem to American parents wants is the right to list “Israel” as his place of birth on his passport. But at times during oral arguments Monday before the United States Supreme Court in Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the debate swelled to include the government’s balance of powers as well as the Middle East peace process.

Menachem Zivotofsky, whose parents moved to Israel from Silver Spring, must list “Jerusalem” as his place of birth, as America does not recognize any one country’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

But listing one’s place of birth is a matter of self-identification and “does not amount to sovereign recognition,” argued Zivotofsky’s attorney, Alyza Lewin.

“I am an Israeli, and I want people to know that I am glad I am an Israeli, and I am not embarrassed,” the young man said in an interview on the steps of the Supreme Court following the hour-long argument.

But U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. told the court that if it ruled in the petitioner’s favor, such a ruling could set back Mideast peace talks and even cause rioting.

“The question of the status of Jerusalem is the most vexing and volatile and difficult diplomatic issue that this nation has faced for decades,” Verrilli said.

Justice Elena Kagan appeared to agree. “I mean, history suggests that everything is a big deal with respect to the status of Jerusalem. And right now Jerusalem is a tinderbox because of issues about the status of and access to a particularly holy site there.”

But Chief Justice John Roberts said if rioting did occur, it would be “a self-fulfilling prophecy” since the executive branch is the one making a big deal out of this issue.

If the matter was simply about self-identification, then a passport would be “a very selective vanity plate,” Kagan said, adding that a passport is “a form of diplomatic communication,” and only the president should be allowed to determine what is written on it.

But Justice Antonin Scalia said it was obviously the executive branch that has the authority to recognize a foreign government, but that this was not what this case is about. He suggested the court could side with the Zivotofskys while stating that its position doesn’t deal with which branch of government has the power of recognition.

Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that Israel be permitted as a place of birth for Jerusalem-born American citizens but that the passport stated that “this designation is neither an acknowledgment nor a declaration by the Department of State or the president of the United States that Jerusalem is within the borders of the State of Israel.”

Lewin acknowledged that even if that happened, Congress could pass a law mandating that statement be removed from passports.

Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wondered aloud whether, given that the United States doesn’t recognize Israel’s authority over all of Jerusalem, does the United States not recognize Israel’s right to prosecute an American who commits a crime in Jerusalem.

Justice Stephen Breyer said he believed the question was better left to the executive branch. “I am a judge. I’m not a foreign affairs expert,” he said.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter before the end of its session in June.

Peres at Rabin Memorial: Ruling Over Others Against Jewish Values

Israel cannot protect its Jewish and democratic character without peace, former President Shimon Peres said at a memorial for Yitzhak Rabin.

“Peace has become a derogatory term. There are those who say that those who believe in peace are naive, not patriots, delusional,” Peres said last Sunday night to thousands of people gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for the event. “But I say to all those in a clear voice, those who give up on peace are the ones who are delusional.”

Rabin was assassinated 19 years ago by Yigal Amir, who remains in jail. This past Wednesday marked the anniversary on the Hebrew calendar of the assassination.

“Ruling over another people is against our values as Jews. To pursue peace is a mitzvah. It’s also very practical, very Jewish,” Peres said.

Ancient Russian Synagogues Rededicated

Two ancient synagogues that Soviet authorities confiscated in rural Russia were rededicated as Jewish houses of worship.

One rededication occurred this week in Voronezh, in southern Russia, at a 110-year-old synagogue that was nationalized and turned into a textile factory. The renovation cost $2.5 million, which came mostly from the Russian-Jewish billionaire German Khan.

Last week, a rededication took place in the Black Sea city of Krasnodar at a ceremony led by Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia, and Rabbi Avraam Ilyaguyev, who is in charge of religious services for Mountain Jews at the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

In Krasnodar, the building, which cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to reconstruct with funds raised locally, now has a prayer hall for 500 as well as a day-care center and Sunday school.

The rededication of the Voronezh synagogue, which was returned to the community 26 years ago, drew hundreds of guests, including the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, and Yuri Kanner, the president of the Russian Jewish Congress.

Loyola U. Chicago Sanctions Hillel, SJP

Loyola University Chicago has determined that the campus chapters of both Hillel and Students for Justice in Palestine violated university rules.

A board of Loyola administrators ruled Friday that both organizations had broken the rules in a campus incident on Sept. 9, an announcement issued by the university said.

In the incident, members of Students for Justice in Palestine attempted to block and protest a table set up by Hillel to promote Taglit-Birthright Israel trips. Consequently, the Loyola Chicago SJP chapter was temporarily suspended. It has been reinstated.

The board ruled that Hillel had violated the university’s “solicitation policy” by setting up a promotional table for a non-Loyola organization without the proper approvals. SJP, in turn, was found culpable for failing to gain prior approval to hold an organized demonstration.

As a penalty, the board has placed SJP on probation for the rest of this academic year. Also, the pro-Palestinian organization must “participate in training related to inter-group dialogue methods to expand the group’s knowledge and skills in engaging in difficult and meaningful discussions,” according to the university.

For Hillel’s violation, its officers must help to provide training and information to other student organizations about “the importance of registering events on campus, specifically tabling events.”

Athens Holocaust Memorial Desecrated

The Athens Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the second time in five months.

On Oct. 30, the logo of the ultranationalist group known as the Unaligned Meander Nationalists was spray-painted in blue on the memorial.

In June, threats against the Jewish community were spray-painted on the monument, which was erected in 2010 and commemorates the more than 60,000 Greek Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Today, only about 5,000 Jews live in Greece.

“We call upon municipal and state authorities to effectively protect the Holocaust Monument of the capital, in order to avoid repetition of such phenomena,” said a joint statement from the Jewish Community of Athens and the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

The community also called on Greek authorities to enact “all necessary procedures so that the perpetrators — those whose hateful and violent actions offend the dignity and the cultural heritage of the city — be apprehended and punished.”

The same group, which describes the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party as “moderates,” vandalized the Holocaust monument on the island of Rhodes in October 2012.

Out of the Loop

Temple Beth Shalom, a Reform congregation, is the largest synagogue in Anne Arundel County. (Provided)

Temple Beth Shalom, a Reform congregation, is the largest synagogue in Anne Arundel County. (Provided)

In 2012, when Rita Kaufman Grindle’s now 17-year-old daughter Maura wanted to join her North America Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) group on an Eisen-drath Israel Experience (EIE) program, Grindle sought financial assistance from The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore as well as the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The Annapolis resident and member of Temple Beth Shalom, a Reform congregation in the Anne Arundel County community of Arnold, Md., was told that her daughter wasn’t eligible for assistance, because the family lived outside of the catchment areas of both federations.

“I was told by someone at the Washington federation that I live in ‘no-man’s land,’” recalled Grindle, though she couldn’t remember with whom she had spoken.

“The only scholarship money we received was $250 from NFTY that they gave for her bat mitzvah,” Grindle continued. “I had to enter into a payment plan with EIE in order to send her.”

At the time, said Grindle, the family was not as familiar with NFTY as they are now. Had she known about the existence of a separate NFTY Mid-Atlantic Region scholarship, she would have had Maura apply for the assistance.

But she maintained that the lack of organized Jewish resources in Anne Arundel County is appalling. The community in and around Annapolis is large enough to support three synagogues — Orthodox Congregation Kneseth Israel, Conservative Congregation Kol Shalom and Reform Temple Beth Shalom — a Chabad House, a Jewish chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy and the availability of kosher food at a local Trader Joe’s, but it lacks federation representation in either Baltimore or Washington, both no more than an hour away.

According to Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, research and analysis director at the Berman Jewish Databank at the Jewish Federations of North America, an estimate from the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University claims there are 8,050 adult Jews “by religion” in Anne Arundel County. “You’d have to add roughly 40 percent more to include adult Jews of no religion [adults who identify as Jews for reasons other than religion] and Jewish children,” said Kotler-Berkowitz. “You’d end up with an estimate of a little over 11,000.”

By contrast, an estimated 93,400 Jewish people live in the Greater Baltimore area, according to a 2010 survey of the community, whereas a 2003 study concluded that 215,000 Jewish people live in the greater Washington, D.C., area, making it the sixth-largest Jewish population in the country. Still, an estimate of 11,000 Jewish residents would make the Jewish community in Anne Arundel County larger than that of Nashville, Tenn. — more than 7,800 people,
according to 2002 data — which boasts its own Jewish federation.

Despite the fact that those affiliated with synagogues in Anne Arundel County are not eligible to receive funds or services from The Associated or the Washington federation, Grindle said she has been solicited for donations by both organizations. She said that the federations ask for donations during High Holiday services in Anne Arundel County synagogues, as well as at other times during the year.

(Grindle admitted that those solicitations may originate from the fact that her name has appeared on the mailing lists of Jewish organizations such as the Reform movement’s Camp Harlem and the Jewish National Fund and subscription lists of the Baltimore Jewish Times and Washington Jewish Week.)

According to Anna Greenberg, 85, a lifelong member of Annapolis’ Jewish community, over the years, she and others have made attempts to organize a united leadership body.

“About 12 to 15 years ago, we did start a United Jewish Council,” she said. “It included all the 501(c)(3)s, the synagogues and groups such as the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah and B’nai Brith.

“We met for a few years, had a festival, but then the Reform synagogue said, ‘We can do this bigger and better.’ And they can,” added Greenberg, who belongs to both Beth Shalom and Kneseth Israel.

“The Reform synagogue under the leadership of Rabbi [Ari] Goldstein does really good work — a lot of social justice. We do a food drive for My Brother’s Pantry, and between Christmas and New Year’s we take in all the homeless, feed them, clothe them [and] play games with them. They have a lot of young members with a lot of energy.”

Some residents of Anne Arundel County were flummoxed why their community hasn’t affiliated with either The Associated or the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, but according to Michael Hoffman, chief development officer at The Associated, the question is simply one of geography.

“The Associated’s primary catchment area for community development and community building is Baltimore City and Baltimore County,” said Hoffman.

Likewise, Steve Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, said that in his understanding, Washington D.C.’s federation was formed to serve the greater D.C. area, which is “contiguous of Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.”

Rakkit, who has been with the federation for almost four years, said he was unaware of any conversations regarding the concerns of the Anne Arundel Jewish community vis-a-vis the federation.

“I am not aware that we are doing any active fundraising there,” he explained. “It’s just not part of our strategy.”

Greenberg said that Washington D.C.’s federation “didn’t want us,” although she was uncertain about why that was the case. She said that more than 10 years ago, the community was approached by The Associated, which offered to “take over our fundraising.”

“We said OK, but then we got a tremendous bill from The Associated,” she said. That put an end to the relationship.

Rabbi Goldstein at Beth Shalom, said that there are “a lot of reasons” why the synagogues in Anne Arundel County aren’t affiliated with either of the federations. For one thing, said Goldstein, “We are kind of far away. Those institutions don’t stretch their arms out that far. I’m sure those institutions would be glad to have us, but it’s complicated. We can’t do it ourselves.

“Add to that the fact that the people who live here are divided about 50/50, about whether they cast their gazes on Baltimore or Washington,” Goldstein continued. “People here have roots in both places.”

Others contend the needs of Jewish residents are being met through alternative channels within the Jewish world. Rabbi Philip Pohl of Kol Shalom pointed to the work of Edward Finkel, Northeast Region director for the Jewish Federations of North America.

Finkel explained that JFNA, as an umbrella organization that represents 153 Jewish federations and more than 300 small non-federated Jewish communities across the United States, looks out for the needs of Anne Arundel County through its Network of Independent Communities.

Finkel said he’s tried to help the Anne Arundel community organize itself since he was assigned to the area several months ago and there was
a series of meetings with Jewish community leaders and stakeholders aimed at strengthening the community’s unity.

“The points of entry are the synagogues,” said Finkel, “and the community leaders are working on having a broader structure, since not all Jews in the county are synagogue members.

“Where do synagogues’ responsibilities begin and end? We believe that the need to organize has to come from within.”

Greenberg hosted a community meeting in her home where Finkel pitched JFNA affiliation. Kneseth Israel and Kol Shalom bought into it and sent their mailing list, but Temple Beth Shalom, which is the largest, wasn’t interested.

“They felt that it wouldn’t make sense to take money they could use for their own programs to give it to JFNA. We did try, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve done what I could.”

As for Grindle, she is not hoping to receive a scholarship for when her son travels to Israel. But she wants others to appreciate what she says is an injustice.

“I believe that the politics is hurting our kids,” she said, “and the Jewish future.”

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Hogan Dominates

Republican Larry Hogan declares victory. (Lloyd Wolf)

Republican Larry Hogan declares victory. (Lloyd Wolf)

Real estate executive Larry Hogan made history Tuesday night, riding a wave of rural and middle-class support to victory as Maryland’s second Republican governor in nearly half a century. In his come-from-behind defeat of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democrat who would have become the state’s first African-American governor, Hogan capped a campaign that focused on the unpopularity of tax hikes enacted by Gov. Martin O’Malley, Brown’s boss.

“They said it could never be done in Maryland, but we did it,” a beaming Hogan told the hundreds of supporters gathered at his election night party at the Westin hotel in Annapolis.

Although it was after midnight, the crowd remained large and energetic, periodically chanting Hogan’s name.

“We have sent a loud and clear message to Annapolis,” Hogan continued. “This is the largest mandate for change in Maryland in 63 years.”

For Brown, it was a bitter disappointment.

“We fell short of our campaign goal,” he told a crowd in College Park that although large, had thinned out significantly in the hour before Brown took the dais. “But it cannot, and does not, diminish the work that each and every one of you have done.

“This was a tough campaign,” he added. “But it was tough because there’s a lot at stake and a lot we’re fighting for … Larry and his team have a tough road ahead of them, and I wish them the very best.”

By all accounts, it was a Republican night across the country. In an election marked by voter dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and economic worries topping voters’ concerns, the GOP took control of the U.S. Senate and expanded its hold on the House of Representatives.

In Maryland, a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1, Hogan’s margin of victory would be noteworthy were it just 1 or 2 percentage points. But the official tally — 51.5 percent to 46.8 percent with 99.7 percent of precincts reporting as of press time — came as a surprise to watchers of a campaign that Brown announced at the beginning of the summer he practically had in the bag.

At the Brown campaign’s election night party in College Park, U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Ben Cardin, both popular Baltimore Democrats, as well as U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, seemed to offer explanations for Brown’s poor performance, even before election returns swung in Hogan’s favor.

“We spend a lot of [campaign] money saying, ‘The other guy is terrible or the other gal is terrible.’ We shouldn’t be surprised that the citizens come to a conclusion that we’re all terrible,” Hoyer said, addressing attack ads run by and coordinated with the Brown campaign. “For a democracy to work successfully it’s got to have the confidence of its people and it’s got to instill in its people a sense that we’re in partnership working together and working towards a common end.”

Cummings addressed the tough fiscal position state executives faced in light of cuts in federal funding.

“I know that people are concerned about taxes,” said Cummings. “We cut taxes on the federal level, but what does that mean with regard to highways, to freezing tuition in our schools? … Somebody’s going to have to pay.

 

“I can understand why O’Malley and Brown had to do what they did with regard to taxes, and I thought it was a rather bold move,” he continued. “But the choice is you lead and you get things done or you cut services and cut infrastructure and cut colleges and you end up with a state in bad shape. It’s tough, but that’s what leadership is all about. You’ve got to stand up for what you believe in and hope the people will follow.”

Cardin, who spoke before a victor emerged, said the next governor will have his hands full.

“We still need to make sure that every child has opportunity through good schools,” he said. “So I think the next governor is going to have a full plate, a full agenda, building on the progress Maryland has made … so that Maryland can continue to be a place of opportunity for all its citizens.”

Hogan voters expressed a sense that O’Malley had stymied the state’s economy and a fear that Brown would continue on the same path.

“The state has gotten away from the freedom to work and to accomplish for yourself,” said Sheila LoCastro, who attended Hogan’s victory party after making the decision to volunteer with the campaign three weeks ago.

“I couldn’t resist it anymore,” she said of signing up to help make Hogan a household name. A lifelong Republican, she said Hogan is the candidate Maryland’s Republicans — long overshadowed by the Democrats, who control Baltimore City and most county governments as well as both houses of the state legislature — have been waiting for.

“This is sort of intoxicating,” said Linda Schatz, a Montgomery County resident who had supported the Hogan campaign. She had planned
to leave the party by about 10 p.m., but at midnight, she still couldn’t rip herself away.

The enthusiasm of the crowd is contagious, she said. “It’s like a feeding frenzy.”

Cathy and Marty Morin also found themselves swept up in the night. In the spring, the couple was approached by Hogan to host a fundraiser. Longtime Republican supporters, they had intended to back one of Hogan’s opponents in the June 24 primary election.

“It took him about 10 minutes [to change our minds],” said Cathy.

“He’s offering a change for Maryland,” said her husband, adding that the couple knows numerous people who have left the state to seek a more friendly economy elsewhere.

Democrats came out in larger numbers during early voting, but Hogan supporters watched the results swing in their favor late Tuesday night. While votes in Baltimore City came out solidly in Brown’s column, Baltimore County swung heavily right on Election Day, as did Howard County.

Chaya Levin voted for Hogan earlier in the day at Northwestern High School in the Park Heights section of Baltimore.

“I think he’s going to do something different,” she said of Hogan, whose lieutenant governor will be former George W. Bush administration official Boyd Rutherford.

Rich Halpern, who voted at Summit Park Elementary, said Brown’s fumbled rollout of the Maryland health care exchange and O’Malley’s tax increases played into his Hogan vote.

“I’m tired of paying all the taxes, and the one thing they gave Brown to do he [messed] up,” said Halpern. “He’s like a junior O’Malley, and I don’t like O’Malley.”

Education weighed heavily on some voters’ minds, and Brown’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten garnered much support.

Bertha Johnson, a former teacher who voted at Northwestern High School, supported Brown because of that plan.

“I hope they have pre-K all over this city because it is needed,” she said.

Voters in Montgomery County were concerned with similar issues.

“The economy is a big question, and education — money for education,” said Kemp Mill resident Avi Weiss before casting his vote at Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School.

Many experts predicted that turnout would prove to be the make or break factor in this year’s election.

“It’s not the most exciting campaign,” said John Bullock, an assistant professor of political science at Towson University. “There’s a lot of lukewarm approval of Brown among some Democrats.”

Some of the negative campaigning on both sides may have also cost the candidates some votes, said Irwin Morris, who teaches American politics at the University of Maryland.

“I’m not sure those ads are effective mobilizers,” said Morris, who noted that a victory for Brown in a state with such a heavy Democratic advantage, though it may have looked easy, depended on motivating supporters to get to the voting booths.

In the end, just 44.7 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, according to an unofficial tally from the Maryland State Board of Elections. In 2010, the last time there was a gubernatorial election, voter turnout stood at 50.4 percent.

Stanley Goldberg, who voted at Summit Park, was one of the “lukewarm” Brown supporters.

“There’s nobody else to vote for. It’s Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum,” he said. “I don’t expect him to accomplish much of anything.”

While Hogan hadn’t spoken much about gun control during the campaign, the Brown campaign made a big deal of his receiving an “A” grading and endorsement from the National Rifle Association. O’Malley and Brown supported and pushed for one of the nation’s toughest gun-control laws, which passed last year.

Oleg Kononov said that’s exactly why he supported Hogan.

“My constitutional rights would be restricted with the Democrats,” he said. “[With] more restrictions, less freedom.”

Others who voted for Hogan said negative campaigning from Brown turned them off.

“To rebel against someone saying negative things, I voted for the guy the negative ads were targeting,” said Allan Wood, who voted at Pikesville Middle School. “I just don’t care for that type of campaigning. It’s a poor way to present yourself.”

For Norman Wolf, O’Malley’s record, as well as the outgoing governor’s relationship with President Obama, was enough for Hogan to win his vote. In addition to his frustration over taxes, Wolf isn’t happy with Obama’s Middle East policies.

“He’s very anti-Israel,” he said.

After the election was called, as Brown supporters trickled out of the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, Jonathan Shurberg of Silver Spring was still processing the results.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing for the people of Maryland. I don’t think it’s a good thing for our politics,” said Shurberg, who ran for a state delegate seat in the primary. “It’s going to make it hard to pass good legislation. … It’s going to change things, I can’t tell you precisely how, but it’s” not going to be good.

In Annapolis, at the victory party, Hogan told an excited crowd about his plans. “Tomorrow, the people of Maryland finally take Maryland back,” he said. “Tomorrow, we’ll begin the work to make this state a place we can all be proud of again.”

Other Election Winners

• Peter Franchot — Comptroller (D)
• Brian Frosh — Attorney General (D)
• Dutch Ruppersberger — U.S. House, District 2 (D)

• Elijah Cummings — U.S. House, District 7 (D)
• John Sarbanes — U.S. House, District 3 (D)
• Delores Kelley — State Senate, District 10 (D)
• Bobby Zirkin — State Senate, District 11 (D)
• Lisa Gladden — State Senate, District 41 (D)
• Adrienne Jones, Jay Jalisi, Benjamin Brooks — House of Delegates, District 10 (D)
• Shelly Hettleman, Dana Stein, Dan Morhaim — House of Delegates, District 11 (D)
• Jill Carter, Nathaniel Oaks, Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg — House of Delegates, District 41 (D)
• Kevin Kamenetz — Baltimore County Executive (D)
• Vicki Almond — Baltimore County Council, District 2 (D)
• A. Wade Kach — Baltimore County Council, District 3 (R)
• Julian Earl Jones — Baltimore County Council, District 4 (D)

Suzanne Pollack and Joshua Runyan contributed to this report.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com
mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Firefighting, the Israeli Way

Firefighters from Maryland and Virginia take part  in training for the Emergency Volunteers Project, an Israeli not-for-profit organization that deploys American firefighters and medical personnel to back up Israeli first responders during times of conflict. (All photos by Marc Shapiro)

Firefighters from Maryland and Virginia take part in training for the Emergency Volunteers Project, an Israeli not-for-profit organization that deploys American firefighters and medical personnel to back up Israeli first responders during times of conflict. (All photos by Marc Shapiro)

A dozen firefighters had to rethink their longstanding approaches to structural fires as they learned how the Israelis do it. They were told to multitask and enter a mock structure fire alone — both atypical ideas to American firefighters.

Those were two of the biggest differences firefighters learned during their two-day training last week for the Emergency Volunteers Project (EVP), a not-for-profit Israeli organization that deploys emergency service workers to back up first responders in Israel during times of conflict. In the U.S., firefighters often have one particular job at a scene and enter buildings in pairs, whereas in Israel, where crews are typically smaller, firefighters learn to be their own one-man crew.

“Think outside the box,” Yoni Blitz, a sergeant with the fire department in Israel’s Sharon region, told the firefighters. “There’s only two of you, three tops.”

He and two other Israeli firefighters helped train the American firefighters, who were from Baltimore County — including the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company, the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company and the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company — Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and Fairfax County, Va., so that they could be deployed to Israel at the request of the Israeli government.

During extended conflicts, such as the recent Operation Protective Edge, Israeli firefighters and medics in the reserves are called out to the fields, leaving fire stations and hospitals understaffed. When the Israeli government asks, EVP sends seasoned firefighters and medical personnel at nearly a moment’s notice to help fill in that gap. The organization has trained 500 volunteers since 2010.

“It’s helping out my fellow brothers,” said Ken McGee, a master technician at Fairfax County Fire and Rescue who is not Jewish. “It’s that fraternity; it doesn’t matter color, culture or country.”

Two local volunteers, EMS Lt. Scott Weiner of Chestnut Ridge and First Engine Lt. Scott Goldstein of Pikesville, spent a week at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon during Operation Protective Edge on a weeklong EVP medical mission. They were also joined by two members of Hatzalah of Baltimore, a Silver Spring paramedic and a nurse from Texas. Goldstein and Weiner are now EVP’s Baltimore-D.C. training coordinators and work to get more of their colleagues involved in the organization.

“Here in our area, we have a wealth of experience and knowledge and people who are compassionate and caring and want to help,” Weiner said. “It’s just a natural extension of my wanting to go.”

So on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 28 and 29, new recruits learned about EVP, terrorism and security threats facing Israel and operational procedures, and they familiarized themselves with Israeli fire equipment and ran firefighting drills. While there were 12 who completed the training, others expressed great interest. A Tuesday night lecture on mass casualty response in Israel attracted about 75 people to the Chestnut Ridge fire station and left the Americans feeling validated.

“It reinforced what we do here in America and the way we train. Even though we don’t see these types of incidents very often, the way we train for mass casualty is the way they train for mass casualty,” Goldstein said. “It’s very nice to see that the stuff we’re doing here actually works.”

Photos by Marc Shapiro

However, their differences played a crucial role the second day of training, when they performed a structure fire simulation. Because they were using an old fire training facility that was no longer active and therefore couldn’t set a real fire, the building was filled with smoke using fog machines. Although the heat typical of structure fires wasn’t there, the lack of visibility and urgency was.

Firefighters entered the ground floor, which was hazy to the point they couldn’t even see their own hands, and had to run hoses up to the next two floors and get the smoke out of the building. According to Israeli tactics, firefighters would enter the building by themselves or go to another floor by themselves and have multiple jobs to do because of smaller crews. In the U.S., firefighters enter structure fires in pairs.

“Here, you usually have your own part. In Israel, you do everything,” said Ken Kleiman, a captain in the Netanya fire department. “It’s like the ‘MacGyver’ kind of thing.”

Because most buildings in Israel are made out of concrete, firefighters can enter alone without having to worry about the structure collapsing, a luxury not afforded most Americans combatting fires here. But concrete buildings pose additional challenges.

“It tends to reserve the heat, so the minute you go inside, it’s like an oven,” said Noam Ozeri, a firefighter from Herzliya north of Tel Aviv. “The water turns to steam.”

Reflecting on the two days of training, Goldstein was confident in future EVP missions.

“I think we have a much better perspective on the Israeli tactics of structural firefighting, and I think our integration into their crew will go a lot more seamlessly,” he said. “We were able to split folks up into crews they hadn’t worked with, and people fell into line like they’d been working together for years.”

For the Americans, getting involved with EVP is about more than fighting fires.

“When we need help in Pikesville, we have it all around us. Israel doesn’t have that,” said Jonathan Polirer, a firefighter and EMT. “Israel is the one place that’s been there for us as a people and always will be.”

At the end of Wednesday’s training, the Israelis told the Americans they are welcome at their fire stations and homes anytime.

“To know that there are people who are with us … it’s good to know we have good friends and brothers,” Kleiman said.

Added Blitz, “I hope they wouldn’t need our help, but if they do, we’ll be here.”

There will additional trainings in early 2015, and some EVP volunteers may go to Israel next year to train at Israeli fire academies as well.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Small but Strong: Jews in Western Maryland

With its claim of being the oldest continually operating synagogue in Maryland and the only one in the city of Cumberland, B’er Chayim Temple, thanks to the perseverance of its small but dedicated community and generous funding from the Sara (Feldstein) Ridgway and John Ridgway Trust, is celebrating its 150-year-old structure’s much-needed facelift with a series of weekend events.

Built in 1863 and officially dedicated in 1867, B’er Chayim, which counts about 65 families as members, is led by Deb Litman, 42, its president. She lived away from Cumberland for many years before she and husband David returned about 10 years ago to be near family and to raise their children in this Western Maryland town (population approximately 20,000) near the West Virginia border.

“We hope this is the beginning of the next chapter of a very long history. We have put a lot of work and time and energy into the physical restoration of our building, and it has energized us in a way,” said Litman. “I’m hoping we can take the energy this process has generated and redirect it into reimagining our congregation.”

The three-phase restoration of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, began about three years ago, as workers stripped off all the lead-based paint from the exterior, repointed brick that lay underneath and repaired or replaced mortar, foundation, wrought-iron fencing and the protective covering for the stained-glass windows that had yellowed.

The exterior work earned the congregation a Maryland Preservation Award for Excellence in Institutional Rehabilitation.

“It’s a real transformation from what I grew up with,” said Douglas Schwab, a fourth-generation native who moved back to Cumberland after college to work in his family’s business and raise his children with wife Betsey Hurwitz-Schwab. “We looked at the history [of the structure] and brought it to current day to make it something we’re all proud of.”

Schwab, along with co-chair Debbie Lang, supervised the restoration. Phase 2 addressed the interior and called for the updating of the electrical system as well as the rebuilding of severely cracked plaster walls and the addition of elevators and handicap-accessible entrances. There were some surprises too.

Photos by Douglas Schwab.

Underneath stark white paint and plaster walls, the team found a layer of canvas from a previous renovation that in turn covered up a third layer of intricate designs and decorative paint. The original plan was to simply paint the walls white after the repairs, but uncovering the sanctuary’s history made workers pause. Mel Martin, an architectural and art history specialist and local yarn shop owner, helped the restoration team broaden its scope of what the final sanctuary restoration could look like, said Litman.

“So we came to a compromise and used some of the elements we found in the historic painting and simplified them for more modern tastes and definitely brought in the feel of what we found,” she said.

Al Feldstein, a generations-long Cumberland native and historian, also helped to educate the congregation on the town’s Jewish past.

Rabbi Stephen Sniderman, who came to B’er Chayim 12 years ago, called the restoration and rededication “a vote of confidence to the future of Jewish life here in Cumberland.”

“We’re located downtown so it’s very visible [and] a vote of confidence for Cumberland itself,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of support locally.”

A third phase of the restoration will upgrade a multiuse structure on the property.

Schwab said over time he’s seen the congregation and the Jewish population in Cumberland shrink and grow.

“We were gifted this money for a reason. I look at it as an opportunity to build the congregation and include more than Friday night services —events, discussions and brunches, even for the general community — and to bring other Jews back into Jewish life,” he said.

Rededication events are scheduled for Friday (Nov. 7) through Sunday (Nov. 9) at B’er Chayim Temple, 107 Union St. in Cumberland, and will include Friday and Saturday Shabbat services, a luncheon and official rededication, restoration tours, a Jewish Cumberland history lecture and a performance by the Machaya Klez-mer Band from Bethesda. Speakers will include Sen. Ben Cardin and Rabbi Elyssa Auster from the JCC of Greater Washington.

For more information, contact rededication@berchayim.org or 301-722-5688.

mgerr@jewishtimes.com

Verbal Assault

As fallout from anonymous Obama administration officials’ insults toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues, advocates for people with disabilities are calling on the White House to issue a separate apology for officials’ reported use of the word “Aspergery” in their description of the Israeli Prime Minister.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, CEO of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to reshape American society’s attitudes toward and strive for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities, told the Washington Jewish Week Thursday that she hopes the administration directly addresses the use of that word and reforms its internal etiquette and sensitivity practices.

“Disability impacts Americans in huge ways. Literally, 18.6 percent of us have disabilities, which means a majority of us have a loved one with a disability,” said Mizrahi. “And so what they think they were trying to convey is that [Netanyahu] is a person who’s incapable of building a relationship.”

In an article published in The Atlantic on Oct. 28, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg listed the collection of outrageous words he has heard Obama administration officials direct at Netanyahu.

“Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and ‘Aspergery.’ (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.),” Goldberg wrote.

The article exploded in the media in the days following its publication primarily because of another word used by one anonymous administration official, who called the prime minister “a chickenshit.”  Yet, the use of the word “Aspergery,” which references stereotypical traits of individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, might hurt the administration in more than just in its relationship with Netanyahu and Israel.

On Wednesday, the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability advocacy organization based in Boston, released a statement singling out the word “Aspergery” and called for action from the administration.

“While it is perfectly acceptable for people to be critical of each other, it is unacceptable to use a term of disability in a derogatory manner,” said Jay Ruderman, the foundation’s president. “The term ‘Aspergery’ was used in a manner that is insulting to the millions of people around the world with Asperger Syndrome. It is never OK to insult someone by referring to them by using disability in a negative manner.

“The Foundation calls on the administration to release a statement denouncing the use of the name of a disability in a derogatory manner,” Ruderman continued.

Going beyond the use of that word, Mizrahi thought the insults between the two countries are unfortunate, pointing out that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was once quoted in Israeli media questioning U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “messianic” fervor in pursuit of an Israel-Palestine peace deal.

“I know that there is a lot of concern about what an unnamed official said about Prime Minister Netanyahu, but definitely using disability as an insult is disgusting — to use it as an insult or slur — but I will say that I hope that the insults diminish on both sides, because there are some very serious issues right now,” said Mizrahi, pointing to a reported nuclear deal with Iran in development and the escalation of violence in East Jerusalem. “Whether it’s disability names or any other kind of names, we need to work together.”