Gartner Named Ambassador of the Year

Randy Gartner, who runs advertising company Integrated Marketing Services, has been named Howard County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year.

“We help clients sort through the maze of advertising options available so that [they]can focus on running [their] business,” he said in a statement.

A University of Maryland graduate, Gartner is a longtime Howard County resident with his wife Judy. They have two daughters who are both registered nurses. Gartner is a graduate for Leadership Howard County’s class of 2006 and is a third-degree mason.

Trialogue Series Brings Muslim, Jewish, Christian Communities Together

Rabbi Jessy Gross, director of Charm City Tribe, speaks about her organization, which aims to engage millennials in Jewish life outside of typical Jewish settings. (Photo by David Stuck)

Rabbi Jessy Gross is one of three clergy members hosting events as part of the Interfaith Trialogue. (Photo by David Stuck)

Baltimore residents will have the opportunity to learn more about their Muslim, Jewish and Christian neighbors over the next few months as part of an Interfaith Trialogue Series sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council.

The BJC has partnered with the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore, Church on the Square and JCC senior director of Jewish life Rabbi Jessy Gross for the three-part series, each part of which will take place in a different house of worship led by a clergy member. The series kicks off on Nov. 20 with Imam Tariq Najee-Ullah leading a discussion at the Muslim Community Cultural Center.

“We are really trying to target those members of our communities who are under 40 about their interests and involvement,” said Najee-Ullah. “We do not know everything about one another. One of our biggest motivations with this conversation is to get people to escape the bubbles of their own communities and branch out. That is why we are changing the house of worship for every discussion.”

Sunday’s event will provide attendees the opportunity to tour a mosque as well as listen to the imam give an overview of the tenets of Muslim faith. Additionally, the event includes a food drive for members of the local community.

“This is the time to ask any questions that you have about Muslims and Islam,” Najee-Ullah said. “The election results have made it clear how little we know about each other. We need to actively work to bring people together and eliminate ignorance within all of our communities, and the current political climate is all the more reason to unite.”

Gross will be leading a workshop in March at the Owings Mills JCC as the second part of the series. Her workshop will include a performance of “Stories from the Fringe,” a play about women who have become rabbis. “It will be a great opportunity to give people who come an insight into my own Judaism, which motivates my following of tradition,” she said.

“We have been meeting monthly for the past year and a half,” Gross added in explaining how the trialogue came together. “Back in May we held our first public gathering and invited participants to join the conversation that we were having with each other, which centered around how being a person of faith and religious traditions can help strengthen our ties to each other and instill our values in the next generation.”

Although it is a topic that they wish to keep discussing, the first meeting was difficult to lead — “none of us still think it is a good idea to bring together a group of 30 people who have never met and ask them to speak with and challenge each other on such a subject as religion,” she said.
However, it was obvious that everyone who showed up wanted an experience that they had not had before. Setting up the trialogue was the perfect opportunity to bring interested individuals together in a more controlled and constructive environment.

“We want to make it more common for people to interact in places of different faiths,” Gross said. “That way we can create an opportunity for people who do not know each other to come together and learn what the other is all about.”

“We want this to be a constructive conversation, not a lecture,” she added. “It gives us the opportunity to express what the particularities and interpretations there are in our different religions that make each so rich. We want to promote participation with other faiths.”

Najee-Ullah also expressed a desire to get the community actively involved in service work as well as discussions. “We want to do actual service and eliminate ignorance of one another.”

Najee-Ullah and the other faith leaders are currently in discussions about beginning a nonprofit organization in Baltimore solely for interfaith service work within local communities.

For more information on the Interfaith Trialogue, visit bit.ly/2fDHqdX.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Yeshiva University Appoints Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman as New President

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Dr. Ari Berman

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman was appointed Wednesday as the new president of Yeshiva University, the school’s board of trustees announced.

Berman, who will be the university’s fifth president, begins his tenure in July 2017. He is a university graduate.

He succeeds Richard M. Joel, who became president in 2003.

“Yeshiva University, with its distinct mission and singular ability to teach how to integrate the world around us within our Torah lives, is uniquely positioned to educate the next generation of students and enable them to capitalize on the blessings of this era,” Berman said.

Berman now leads Hechal Shlomo – Jewish Heritage Center in Jerusalem and is transforming “the historic organization into an international modern Orthodox center for Jewish life, learning and leadership,” according to the university.

In addition, Berman is a lecturer of rabbinic literature in Herzog College’s Department of Jewish Studies. He also sits on the college’s Executive Leadership Council.

Before moving to Israel, Berman was rabbi at The Jewish Center in New York City and a Talmud instructor at the Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program at Yeshiva College.

“Rabbi Berman is a dynamic and inspirational leader, scholar and educator,” said YU Chairman Moshael J. Straus, who led the selection committee. “He possesses a deep, life-long commitment to our mission and is a superb choice to lead Yeshiva University forward with excellence.”

agotlieb@midatlanticmedia.com

A Divisive Result With domestic discontent and concern for Israel, Jewish community applauds and decries Trump's election

President-elect Donald Trump delivering his acceptance speech as Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, Nov. 9, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech as Vice president-elect Mike Pence looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump delivering his acceptance speech as Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, Nov. 9, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

Donald Trump’s stunning victory in last week’s presidential election has stirred strong reactions from both those distressed and those enthused by the Republican candidate’s improbable win. And those reactions have struck on many issues that divide Jewish people the most.

Indvidudals and organizations that adovcate for Jewish social welfare programs, the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are worried about how Trump will handle those initiatives after he takes office. Many of Trump’s campaign promises have made both Democrats and Republicans feel uneasy.

The concerns are domestic too, arising from increasing anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric that has been linked with the Trump campaign throughout an extremely divisive election season.

“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a prepared statement. “We must not let this troubling trend of hate define our society, which means that the onus is on our community leaders, religious clergy, elected officials and others to remain vigilant [and] report incidents when they surface.”

Jewish Republicans, though largely split on the president-elect, see an opportunity for Trump to build a strong pact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While the United States and Israel are longtime allies, relations were considered, at times, strained between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu because of their contrasting views on certain world issues.

Among the many promises Trump made in his campaign, he vowed to move the U.S. embassy from the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

Some organizations look forward to bipartisan cooperation on Israel.

“Despite their deep differences on a range of issues, both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates notably shared a common commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee wrote in a prepared statement. “Strong bipartisan support for the Jewish state is also reflected overwhelmingly in the incoming Congress. We look forward to working with the new Congress on key legislative initiatives to strengthen the relationship between our two democracies.”

For many, such as Jewish Pikesville resident Ruth Goetz, policy on Israel was one of the main focal points of the race.

Goetz, who sits on the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said with great certainty that Trump would do more for the Holy Land than any other president since Israel’s birth in 1948. She believes Trump will make good on his promise to eradicate ISIS, a shared common enemy of the United States and Israel, and potentially help Israel create an opportunity to abandon its commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“What I’ve seen from Trump, I think he is the most pro-Israel I have ever seen from a presidential adminstration,” Goetz said. “I’m looking forward to — and it’s nice to see — the capital of Israel [Jerusalem] is going to be acknowledged.”

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Police estimate that 600 people took to the streets of Baltimore on Nov. 10 to demonstrate their outrage over the election of Donald Trump. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Trump’s election ignited protests in Baltimore and several other major cities around the country. On Nov. 10, two days after Trump’s closely contested win, police said that an estimated 600 dismayed Baltimore residents took to the streets to show their displeasure of a Trump presidency.

Abby Becker, a Jewish protester, proudly marched from the Washington Monument to McKeldin Square, where demonstrators chanted “Not my president” and “2-4-6-8, no to Trump and no to hate.”

Becker, 28, a nonprofit employee and musician who resides in Baltimore, said she was “devastated but not surprised” when she learned Trump had been elected and added that she refuses to accept the result.

When asked if she would acknowledge Trump as president after he is inaugrated on Jan. 21, Becker paused, saying: “That’s a tough one. [Trump] does not speak for me. He does not represent what I think or believe about my country, and it’s my job to make that very clear to the rest of the world that’s looking to us.”

She added: “Trump is a manifestation of so much of the darkness that’s part of our country: supercapitalism, racism, egocentrism, white supremacy, corporate citizenship, the incarceration state, militarism and so much more. He’s fearful of people who are different from him.”

There were also walkouts in the past week at some universities around the state, including Towson University and the University of Maryland, College Park, during which students, staff and faculty expressed their disamy about Trump.

“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery.”

— Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation  League

Many, such as Becker, had hoped at the very least that Trump would surround himself  with a team of seasoned advisers and decision-makers.

His recent appointment of his campaign’s controversial CEO, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist and senior counsel has led to more crticism for Trump. Civil rights leaders, Democrats and some Republicans have said that Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website that has featured alt-right views, will bring an anti-Semitic, nationalist and racist point of view to the position.

In addition to Breitbart content, critics have cited that Bannon himself has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

“At the end of the day, there was going to be extreme
opposition to either [Trump or Clinton] being elected. I just hope that America can overcome the extreme divivde and make this country a better place for all people.”

— David Kashan, 25, a third-year Jewish medical student from Owings Mills

Aaron Levin, chair of J Street Baltimore, said Trump’s attitude and language directed toward all minority groups should put everyone on alert.

“Obviously, I think there are a lot of disturbing things we have seen from Trump so far,” Levin said. “People from all different minority backgrounds, I think, have every reason to be fearful.”

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A swastika was drawn next to an exit ramp of I-83 South. (Photo Provided)

While Baltimore hasn’t been rife with anti-Semitic incidents, a swastika with the words “white power” popped up on an Interstate 83 exit ramp, prompting residents to report the graffiti to the Anti-Defamation League.

Mount Washington resident Tara Marbach noticed the swastika on Nov. 12 on a metal panel on the exit ramp for East Northern Parkway off of I-83 South.

“For me, it’s frustrating,” Marbach said. “I’m not Jewish, I’m a white girl. It doesn’t scare me for me, but it breaks my heart because I know that it hurts so many people. It’s just frustrating that this is happening right now in our country.”

An image Marbach took circulated on a listserv for Mount Washington residents, which prompted sculptor and builder Marc Braun, a former Mount Washington resident who maintains clients in the area, to cover up the graffiti with spray paint.

While covering up the graffiti, which he said was written in magic marker, Braun learned from a black homeless man that a white homeless man had drawn the swastika because he was mad that the guy had taken his panhandling spot.

Braun, who grew up in Prince George’s County and became a bar mitzvah at Baltimore synagogue Shaarei Tfiloh, said spray-painting over the swastika was a “gut reaction.”

“I don’t say hide it, I say take a picture of it, report it, document it, but don’t let it hang around to terrorize everyone else, because it’s terrorism in my mind,” he said. “I went to Hebrew school. I got it drilled into me that concentration camps were real. … The reality of the Holocaust is still there; it’s not going away. The white supremacists and the Holocaust deniers, that’s all happening, and it’s getting stronger.”

He also called Bannon’s appointment “scary.” “Now we have the white nationalists and the KKK people getting a seat at the table,” he said. “That’s scary.”

In response to such incidents, the Baltimore Jewish Council is monitoring the recent spike in hate crimes around the state and country. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh took it a step further on Monday, according to The Baltimore Sun, encouraging victims of racial and religious hate speech to report the incidents.

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Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

“Toward the end of [Trump’s] campaign, there was unfortunately a lot of rhetoric, particulary in campaign commercials, that certainly suggested anti-Semitic tones,” Howard Libit, executive director of the BJC, told the JT. “I think all of us in the community are hopeful that that does not continue into the president-elect’s adminstration and that [Trump] seeks to continue to build on the tolerance and diversity our nation is founded on.”

Trump, who received 35 percent of the vote in Maryland, also has changed the outlook of some staunch supporters, such as 37-year-old Towson lawyer Phil Kaplan, who is Jewish. He long felt dismissed by the political system but truly feels Trump has given a voice back to the people.

Kaplan, a Republican, called on all Americans, regardless of political affliations or ties, to back Trump and give the president-elect a chance to prove himself as the nation’s commander-in-chief.

“Not everyone may see things eye to eye,” Kaplan said. “The election clearly got ugly, but at this point, rather than dismissing all the people who voted Trump into office, we should all try to work together. We’re all in the same boat, because most of us are all ordinary human beings who are just trying to make it through.”

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Phil Kaplan, a Trump supporter (Photo Provided)

As much as Kaplan said he disliked Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, he praised her for the way in which she handled herself after delivering her concession speech.

“I think she was very classy by the manner she handled everything,” Kaplan said. “If she wants to see everyone come together, I think her followers and supporters should get on board with that, considering the message is coming from the head of the Democratic Party.”

There are some who could not find significant policies that promised real change of any kind for the better but who were open to throw their support behind either Trump or Clinton.

David Kashan, 25, a third-year Jewish medical student from Owings Mills, said that while he found neither Clinton nor Trump particularly appealing before the election, he is content with Trump.

Kashan believes a lot of the anger he has witnessed directed at Trump supporters through social media and in person is misdirceted. He said labeling Republicans as racists, sexists, misogynsists, among other name-calling, only adds to the discord that is occuring around the nation.

“Trump has major flaws, but who is to say that he can’t do some good in office? It is a shame to see people on social media rooting for his demise,” Kashan said. “At the end of the day, there was going to be extreme opposition to either [Trump or Clinton] being elected. I just hope that America can overcome the extreme divivde and make this country a better place for all people.”

Marc Shapiro contributed to this report.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Shabbat Project One for All, All for One!

The Great Challah Bake (Photo by David Stuck)

The Great Challah Bake (Photo by David Stuck)

For the third year in a row, the Baltimore Shabbat Project brought together thousands of Jews from all over the region for Shabbat services, challah bakes, Havdalah and interdenominational celebrations.

An estimated one million people in 1,150 cities in 94 countries took part in the Shabbat Project, an international effort started by South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein.

“There is a real thirst worldwide for true Jewish unity and for a genuine connection to Judaism,” Goldstein said in a news release. “And people really resonate with the way Shabbat carves out a sacred space of tranquility and togetherness amidst the frenzy of modern life.”

Shabbat Through the Senses

Shabbat Through the Senses included a variety of hands-on activities for participants of all ages

Shabbat Through the Senses included a variety of hands-on activities for participants of all ages

Since moving to Baltimore a year ago, Arik Shalom and his family have been looking for ways to get actively involved in the Jewish community.

A native of Little Rock, Ark., Shalom, 41, and his wife, Samara, 32, moved to the area in part to provide their three children — Yocheved, 3, Naptali, 2, and Menachem, 6 months — with a rich cultural upbringing.

On Nov. 6, the Shaloms had a chance to do just that at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC with a hands-on afternoon filled with numerous activities as part of the Shabbat Through the Senses program.

“Once you get involved in a community, you get involved by working, meeting people, and these types of events are how you do it,” said Shalom, who was attending his first program of the Baltimore Shabbat Project, which kicked off with this event and culminated in a community Havdalah concert on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Shalom and his family were one of more than 200 from various backgrounds who took part in making challah dough, creating colorful Shabbat candlesticks, hearing Shabbat songs and joining in sing-alongs.

David Bloom, 37, and his sons, Micah, 5, and Noah, 3, especially enjoyed putting together their own Shabbat box, which included valuable resources such as a prayer book.

While Bloom said his family observe Shabbat occasionally, his hope is that the Shabbat Project provides his sons with inspiration to take part in the weekly observance on a more regular basis.

“I think it really makes all the kids feel like a part of Shabbat,” Bloom said. “Also, as the weather and time changes, I think it will be a little bit easier to do Shabbat.”

Jill Smulson, 35, a Howard County resident, said she attended in part to build a strong Jewish foundation for her 7-month-old son, Elliott. A big part of her attendance had to do with exposing Elliott son to the same Jewish values she gained growing up in the Reisterstown and Owings Mills communities.

When her son is old enough to understand the significance of the moment, Smulson has no doubt they will look back on the day together with fond memories of their shared experience.

“I’m always looking to get [my son] accustomed to Jewish life. We want to instill good values and raise him Jewish, so we have to start him early,” Smulson said with a smile.

— Justin Silberman

View photos from Shabbat Through the Senses:

Shabbat for the Senses 2016

 

The Great Baltimore and Howard County Challah Bakes

The Great Challah Bake drew 4,000 Jewish women to the Baltimore Convention Center (Photo by David Stuck)

The Great Challah Bake drew 4,000 Jewish women to the Baltimore Convention Center (Photo by David Stuck)

For attendees of the Great Challah Bake and the Howard County Challah Bake in the days following the election, the events greatly contrasted the contentious nationwide political debate and brought the Jewish community closer together.

The third annual Great Challah Bake took place at the Baltimore Convention Center on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 9. The event was packed with more than 4,000 Jewish women who had come to experience a sense of unity and learn how to bake challah.

“This is really a cross section of everyone,” said Phyllis Lederman, one of the event’s co-chairs. “There are members of the Orthodox community, conservative and reform Jews, even members of the community who are not normally involved with Judaism. It is really what we were striving for.”

Many women expressed how joyous it was to come together with peers for such an entertaining and engaging program. “It is just such a real, feel-good event,” said attendee Marcey Eisen.

“I came because it will be a spiritual evening,” said Sarah-Eta Shnier. “We all need a sense of unity now that the election has ended.”

Shira Bernstein, another attendee, added, “It is the calm after the storm.”

While the Great Challah Bake in Baltimore drew locals in droves, the second annual Challah Bake in Howard County grew by quite an impressive margin, more than doubling in size since the inaugural event last year.

“We are already talking about pushing the event farther into the sanctuary next year,” said Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation, where the event was held. “Last year, we were forced to turn away people. This year, Beth Shalom agreed to host to provide more space, and even so, we have hit capacity tonight and are still accommodating more.”

“I think the purpose of the event is twofold,” she added. “People want connection to traditions and to each other. People desire connection, relief and healing, and a program like this does all of that. All of the different movements are represented in this room. There is a sense of unity in a time of divisiveness. For us to have that right now is incredibly healing.”

Last year, the event focused more around featured speakers who taught attendees about the challah and tradition. “We found that the women really wanted to get more into the actual baking piece of it as well as the socializing,” said Hedy Tanenholtz, who co-chaired the Challah Bake in Howard County this year and last. “With the election turmoil so close to this, it is nice to come together and leave everything behind.”

Beth Millstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, thought the event’s vision of unifying the community did indeed come true.

“It is really nice to see Jewish women coming together so happily,” she said. “The election is on everyone’s minds, and having events that continue to reinforce and empower women is really important, especially in this day and age.”

— Daniel Nozick

View photos from the Great Challah Bake:
Challah Bake 2016

Community Havdalah Concert with Matisyahu

Matisyahu headlines the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert on Nov. 12 at Rams Head Live! (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Matisyahu headlined the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert on Nov. 12 at Rams Head Live! (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Matthew “Matisyahu” Miller is no stranger to what many in his circle and he refer to as a circuitous and singular “journey.”

But the revelation is something to truly behold, considering the last few years in the life of this 37-year-old New Yorker (by way of West Chester, Pa.), whose protean reggae/hip-hop/world music hits, infused with his Jewish heritage, include 2005’s “King Without a Crown” and 2009’s “One Day.”

Take Saturday’s late-night interview with the JT, immediately following his two-hour-plus concert at Rams Head Live! as part of the local Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert.

Who else but the oft-contrarian Matisyahu — exhausted and bleary-eyed from his concert, all 6 feet, 4 inches of his Ichabod Crane body inches away from this reporter and sprawled out on the green room couch, signature trench coat and all — would suggest the interview be conducted while his band members and he watched the highly anticipated Dave Chappelle-hosted, post-election episode of “Saturday Night Live”?

“I’ve been coming to Baltimore for 10 years,” Matisyahu said while he affected a certain sleepiness, while noshing on some chocolate and asking for his coconut water.

“I’m in a particular place right now,” Matisyahu said about his rather roller-coaster, heuristic investigation of his Jewish identity and international, interdisciplinary search for his artistic and personal vision.

As far as the various controversies that have reared their heads throughout this digressive course toward such unfettered creative expression, Matisyahu said he “doesn’t really think about it too much; I’m keeping focus on the new record right now. We’re in the studio now making new songs.”

“For now,” he summed it all up, “the music is really the form I like to express myself.”

Lisa Bodziner, Havdalah concert co-chair, said, “We wanted to use this opportunity to bring in more people who don’t have Shabbat on their minds necessarily,” adding that her group sees such events — which also included a two-hour long DJ showcase, a participatory art installation next to the stage, a holiday card craft table and meet-and-greet with the singer himself — as a platform to more directly connect with community members who may not otherwise be as engaged.

Fervently believing that Matisyahu “represents plurality and diversity [which is what] the Shabbat Project’s all about,” Bodziner admitted that though the choice to bring in the at times controversial and provocative musician had resulted in some concern, “when we actually surveyed the 20s and 30s in the audience we were targeting, they said he was the only Jewish musician they would be interested in paying for.”

Considering Matisyahu’s stepping away from the more formal aspects of his religious convictions, there have been those in the Jewish community worldwide who have taken a similar step back from the artist himself.

“He’s not just a guy who grew peyos and can rap,” Bodziner rejoined. “He really is a talented artist.” She said people have questioned him for being on his own journey,“but this concert [wasn’t] just for the [Orthodox] Jewish community, and his character is still solid.”

“I believe that everybody is on a journey, and they should be able to express themselves as long as they’re respectful toward the Jewish community and Israel,” she said. “We do feel his music inspires people.”

One such person is 8-year-old Pikesville denizen Shelby Kirk, who with her parents and older brother, took part in the Matisyahu meet-and-greet before the show.

Kirk revealed it’s “the message” of his music that she so heartily finds endearing.

“He wants everyone to be free,” Kirk said about what she believes this message to ultimately be, adding that her friends are big fans of Matisyahu and that message as well.

“It was a powerful request to ask him to be a part of our Shabbat Project and to embrace who he is and where he’s coming from right now,” Bodziner said. “His voice and his honest approach to Judaism — his struggling with it — can be an inspiration to people who might be exploring similar things.”

— Mathew Klickstein

Election Never Far from Federation Assembly

 Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she looks forward to Donald Trump filling the court’s vacant seat. (Photo by Justin Katz

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she looks forward to Donald Trump filling the court’s vacant seat. (Photo by Justin Katz)

The General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America got underway in Washington, D.C., Sunday with Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, telling the 3,000 community activists and staff how the world has changed since he last addressed the G.A. in 2014.

“Since we last met, the world has gone mad,” he said. “The world is moving into a new and dangerous phase that I call the politics of anger.”

The politics of anger comes from fear, he said. Those gathered in the Washington Hilton ballroom must counter that fear with hope, which Sacks called the greatest gift to humanity as a whole.”

Sacks mentioned the election of Donald Trump as president four days before, but in the gentlest way. He called the contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton “almost as acrimonious as a synagogue board meeting.”

The presidential election appeared to be the chief topic of the three-day G.A., the Jewish federation world’s annual convention where participants gather to re-energize their commitment to the Jewish community, network and hear from experts on Jewish issues. The election was the subject of numerous workshops and conversations throughout the convention hall.

To be sure, there were also the standard breakout sessions on Israel; on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement; and on fundraising. There were showcases for local innovations, called FEDovations. Disability inclusion and reaching out to millennials were also session topics.

But the election was never far away. At an election postmortem on Sunday, Kenneth Weinstein, president and CEO of the Hudson Institute, explained why Trump’s win came as a surprise to so many Jews.

“Frankly, given the demographic makeup of the Jewish community, which skews toward the highly educated white-collar worker at the upper end, we were completely out of touch with the base of voters out there in rural America,” he said.

On Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was interviewed on stage by Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg asked what effect Trump’s election will have on the Supreme Court, which is operating with eight justices with one seat vacant.

“President Trump will fill it, then perhaps Congress will do some work,” she said.

Ginsburg added that the eight-justice court is doing just fine. “I think it’s to the court’s credit that last term there were only three decisions that came down 4 to 4,” she said.

“The world has gone mad,” Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, told G.A. participants.

“The world has gone mad,” Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, told G.A. participants. (Photo by Ron Sachs)

Monday began with news that Trump had appointed former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon to the position of chief strategist in his incoming administration. Bannon, with his connections to the white nationalist alt-right movement, has been dogged by accusations that he is an anti-Semite. Bannon’s appointment was criticized by some Jewish groups. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called Bannon “hostile to core American values.”

Later that morning, White House Jewish liaison Chanan Weissman talked about how Jews can respond to anti-Semitic tweets and other hate speech.

“One thing we need to do is speak out publicly whenever we can,” he told Times of Israel reporter Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil. “Whenever we see incidents like this, it’s important that we speak out against it on the record.”

Weissman, who will leave his position in January, said it is imperative for his successor to continue be a voice for the concerns of the Jewish community.

“We know what it means to be persecuted; therefore, we need to fight against persecution,” he said.

Between sessions, Sara Rabin Spira of Washington considered how the election affected her two small children.

“It’s been a difficult week,” she said. “I had to explain to my kids about Donald Trump. That was a heartbreaking conversation. I told them that what we can do is practice tikkun olam. If Trump tells us that we can litter, we’ll pick litter up.”

“I thought it was important that we have a little political debriefing, because a lot of people have concerns about how things went down,” said Beth Goldsmith, chair of community planning and allocations at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “It’s the perfect time to have this G.A. for all the people who need to be healed and have some positive inspiration.”

One debriefing, a discussion among Jewish Republican operatives, demonstrated that Republicans too are still sorting out the election results.

Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said he looks forward to sitting down with Bannon.

While having never met Bannon, Brooks brushed aside the accusations that have swirled around the Trump adviser. Everyone who Brooks knows who has worked for Bannon has said the man “does not have an anti-Semitic bone in his body,” Brooks said.

Panelist Noam Neusner, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said he is not optimistic about a Trump presidency.

“President-elect Trump has a lot to prove, and he knows it,” Neusner said. “I have severe doubts, but he could prove me wrong.”

But Neusner, like others on the panel, believes that Trump will work with the Jewish community on issues that are important to them.

When moderator Jacob Kornbluh, a political reporter with Jewish Insider, asked panel members whether they would be willing to serve in the incoming administration if asked, there was a noticeable pause.

“A lot of these questions I find impossible to answer because this is a candidate we know nothing about,” said Lisa Spies, who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Tevi Troy, who served as White House Jewish liaison in the George W. Bush administration, said in an interview with Joshua Runyan, editorial director of Mid-Atlantic Media, that Jews would be wise to take a “wait-and-see” approach in their response to Trump’s election.

“I would tell Jewish community to be wary of what they say in these early days,” he said.

Sarah Arenstein, senior philanthropic officer in the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s United Jewish Endowment Fund, said that after the election, “it’s important more now than ever that the Jewish community comes together and stands united, because we have a lot of work to do as a country.”

galtshuler@midatlanticmedia.com
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dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Stephen Bannon: 5 Things Jews Need to Know About Trump’s Chief Strategist

Stephen Bannon at a Donald Trump rally at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev., Nov. 5, 2016. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Stephen Bannon at a Donald Trump rally at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev., Nov. 5, 2016. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, President-elect Donald Trump appointed Stephen Bannon to be his chief strategist. Before joining Trump’s campaign, Bannon was the chairman of Breitbart News, a site steeped in conspiracy theories that has featured the white supremacist, anti-Semitic ideologies of the so-called alt-right. Bannon has also been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks himself.

The Anti-Defamation League slammed Bannon’s appointment; CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called him “hostile to core American values.”

Here are five things you need to know about Bannon, who will have the president’s ear.

Bannon’s site ran multiple columns accused of anti-Semitism.

Breitbart News, one of the most vociferously pro-Trump outlets during the presidential campaign, has been accused of racism and Islamophobia. Jewish critics have also accused it of anti-Semitism.

In May, Breitbart ran a column with a headline calling anti-Trump conservative writer Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.” The column, by conservative activist David Horowitz, said Kristol led a “small but well-heeled group of Washington insiders” who aimed to undermine Trump, even though he won the nomination. Horowitz, himself Jewish, also accused Kristol’s plan of putting Israel in danger by enabling Hillary Clinton to win the election. (Defenders noted that the article was defending Jewish interests, despite the provocative title.)

In September, Breitbart ran another column accusing a Jewish anti-Trump writer, the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, of helping orchestrate “attempts to impose a globalist worldview upon citizenries that reject it” alongside a coalition that included George Soros — a favorite Jewish target of the alt-right.

“Hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned,” the column continued.

Breitbart has failed to remove some blatantly anti-Semitic comments, including one that says “Heil Hitler,” below the column.

Bannon allegedly called Jews “whiny brats.”

His ex-wife claimed in a sworn statement in 2007 that Bannon made three separate anti-Semitic remarks when they were choosing a school for their daughters. The ex-wife, who also accused Bannon of attacking her, made the statement during divorce proceedings.

In one instance, according to NBC News, Bannon asked a school director “why there were so many Hanukkah books in the library.” At another school, the ex-wife said, Bannon “asked me if it bothered me that the school used to be in a temple. I said no and asked why he asked … he did not respond.”

At a third school, The Archer School for Girls, Bannon “went on to say the biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

Bannon’s spokeswoman denied the allegations in a statement to NBC News.

“At the time, Mr. Bannon never said anything like that and proudly sent the girls to Archer for their middle school and high school educations,” she said.

In addition to the anti-Semitism allegations, an article in the left-wing Mother Jones magazine called him “a champion of the most ardent anti-Muslim extremists” because he brought anti-Muslim guests on his radio show.

Bannon called Breitbart the mouthpiece of the white nationalist alt-right movement.

While still at Breitbart, Bannon told Mother Jones, “We’re the platform for the alt-right,” in an August interview. The alt-right — a loose movement that has gained prominence during this election season — promotes white nationalism and has been accused of being racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic.

The alt-right, short for alternative right, “encompasses a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy,” according to the ADL. “People who identify with the alt-right regard mainstream or traditional conservatives as weak and impotent, largely because they do not sufficiently support racism and anti-Semitism.”

Joel Pollak, a Breitbart editor who is Jewish, defended Bannon in a comment Monday on Facebook, calling the allegations against Bannon a “smear.” His post also said Bannon is someone “without a shred of antisemitic prejudice, who worked closely with Jews and started a pro-Israel website.”

Bannon has links to the European populist right.

In addition to promoting right-wing populism in America, Bannon has links to right-wing populist parties in Europe. He invited Marion Le Pen, a rising star in the French far-right National Front party, to work with Trump. National Front leaders once espoused anti-Semitism, but when Marine Le Pen — Marion’s aunt — became its leader, she made an effort to rid the party of its anti-Semites, including her father, the party’s founder. Now the National Front focuses on opposing immigration and the European Union.

In addition, Bannon has links to Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, a far-right party in Britain. Farage was Bannon’s guest at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, a premier American conservative confab.

Republicans have decried Bannon’s appointment.

Just because Bannon will be advising the next Republican president doesn’t mean all Republicans like him.

On Sunday, Republican strategist John Weaver called Bannon part of the “racist, fascist extreme right”:

And former Republican strategist Ana Navarro called him a “white supremacist, anti gay, anti Semite, vindictive, scary-ass dude.”

Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, defended Bannon from the allegations on “Good Morning America.”
“I don’t know where that comes from. That’s not the Steve Bannon that I know,” Preibus said. “I have sat with him for months. I have never, ever, at one time, experienced that.”

Does Trump Want to Scrap the Iran Deal? If so, This is How He Does it

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore via flickr)

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore via flickr)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Enforce the Iran deal. Violate the Iran deal. Leave it to Congress. Do nothing.

President-elect Donald Trump has an array of options before him when he assumes the presidency on Jan. 21, according to supporters and opponents of the deal. Reached last year between Iran and six major powers led by the United States, the agreement rolled back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The open question – as are so many questions about Trump’s intentions – is what does the next leader of the free world want to do?

His peregrinations were evident when Trump spoke in March to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s policy conference and claimed – literally minutes apart – that he both planned to enforce the deal and to scrap it.

“My No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Trump said at the time. Then a few moments later: “We will enforce it like you’ve never seen a contract enforced before, folks, believe me.”

More recently, Trump appears to be leaning more in the direction of enforcement over scrapping.

His two top advisers on Israel, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, released in the last days of the campaign an Israel position paper with provisions meant to lighten the collective heart of the right-wing pro-Israel community – on Jerusalem, Palestinian statehood and settlements. But it was notably circumspect on the Iran deal.

“The U.S. must counteract Iran’s ongoing violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and their noncompliance with past and present sanctions, as well as the agreements they signed, and implement tough, new sanctions when needed to protect the world and Iran’s neighbors from its continuing nuclear and non-nuclear threats,” said the position paper from the advisers, two longtime lawyers for Trump.

That reluctance to directly confront Iran — “counteract,” not cancel; “when needed,” as opposed to “right now” — could stem from Trump’s professed warmth toward Russia, which is allied with Iran in its bid to crush rebels in Syria, or a realistic desire to keep his options open.

Here are some of the president-elect’s options on Iran:

Silence

The deal essentially is done. Sanctions are lifted, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program. Trump never took much advice during his campaign; he may be less inclined to do so as commander-in-chief. If he doesn’t want a headache, this is one way to go.

Drawbacks: A number of his formal rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are back in their Senate seats, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. They hate the deal, they want to be president in 2021 and they’re itching to distinguish themselves from Trump. If they can do it from the right, that’s just the cherry on top. Trump’s silence on Iran would hand them a huge opening for political disruption.

Declare it dead, move on

Does Trump want to shut up Rubio and Cruz? Just declare the deal dead and do nothing. He ran a campaign successfully navigating the tensions between contradictory declarations and actions – why shouldn’t he get away with the same as president?

Drawbacks: The Iranians can point to a declaration of intent to withdraw in order to drop out of the program themselves and then start enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.

“The Iranians might present themselves as a victim and begin to start restoring their centrifuges,” said Dennis Ross, a former top Iran adviser to President Barack Obama, speaking Thursday at a session on Trump’s possible foreign policy charges at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where Ross is now a fellow.

Scrap the deal

Trump has a number of mechanisms at his disposal that would immediately pull the United States out of the deal. All of them involve restoring an array of sanctions that targeted third parties that deal with Iran. (Direct dealings with Iran, with several exceptions, are still banned for U.S. entities.)

He could simply stop waiving the sanctions already in place according to existing law. Trump could, as President Bill Clinton did in 1995 not long after pro-Israel lobbying shifted to focusing on Iran’s nuclear program, issue an executive order advancing new sanctions. Or he could invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which gives the president broad sanctioning power.

Drawbacks: Any pullback from the Iran deal will raise the question of who is at fault for its collapse. The more proactive the United States is in killing the deal, the likelier that the international partners whose sanctions brought Iran to the table will blame the U.S. and continue trading with Iran, threats be damned.

Moreover, Trump may not have the ability to waive existing sanctions — the most passive option described above. That’s because the Iran Sanctions Act, which authorizes the sanctions, is set to lapse on Dec. 31. Congress broadly agreed that it needs to be reenacted, but there is precious little time to do so. Moreover, Democrats want a clean reenactment of the original law, no additions, while Republicans want to insert language making it harder for any president to waive the bill’s provisions. They have yet to settle on a compromise. Without renewal, the president would have to use executive action to impose penalties on Iran.

Enforcement 

Worried that the world will turn away from the United States should it pull out? Then make it clear that the Iranians are at fault, say conservatives who oppose the deal.

“He has to start first enforcing it, second doing a bunch of stuff that’s allowed that the [Obama administration] hasn’t been doing,” said Omri Ceren of The Israel Project. “In other words, taking the deal seriously.”

Ceren accuses Obama of ignoring violations by Iran and Secretary of State John Kerry of too eagerly seeking to make clear to third parties still inhibited by existing American sanctions that it was OK to deal with Iran. (The Obama administration feared that if Iran’s economy did not benefit from the deal, hardliners there would persuade the regime to scrap it.)

“All that needs to happen for the deal to fall apart is for the Trump White House to do what the Obama administration has refused to do — enforce its provisions,” wrote Lee Smith, advancing a similar argument to Ceren’s in The Weekly Standard.

Drawbacks: Selling the notion to America’s partners that Iran is in violation might be hard. Case in point: Smith noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, had reported recently that Iran was exceeding its allowed limits for the heavy water used to make weapons-grade plutonium.

However, what the IAEA reported, according to The Associated Press, which obtained the agency’s internal document, was that Iran had exceeded its allotment “only slightly” and would resolve the issue by exporting the overage and then some. To an American partner, Iran’s actions could, described in those terms, look like it was going out of its way to make up for a mistake.

Let Congress do it

If Congress fails to reauthorize Iran sanctions before it concludes its business, there are any number of Republican senators ready to write new ones. That way, Trump doesn’t get blamed for walking away from the deal.

Drawbacks: Democrats will likely filibuster any new legislation. An array of groups that backed the deal, including J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, has pledged to hold the party’s feet to the fire.

“There will be fights, and these will be fights J Street and other supporters of the deal will engage in with everything we’ve got,” said Dylan Williams, J Street’s vice president of government affairs.

And perhaps, from Trump’s perspective, that’s not a drawback: He satisfies hard-liners by encouraging them to come up with the toughest anti-deal legislation possible – and then watches it wither on the vine.

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

A white pickup truck parked outside Goldberg’s stirred up emotions for customers. (Photos provided)

A white pickup truck parked outside Goldberg’s stirred up emotions for customers. (Photos provided)

Last week, ahead of the presidential election, Noah Bers was at Goldberg’s New York Bagels in Pikesville minding his own business and enjoying a meal when he started to feel a little uneasy about his surroundings.

Outside the establishment, a group of six people who were scattered around a white pickup truck decorated with several Donald Trump signs and signs of other Republican candidates gathered to express their support for the controversial GOP nominee.

Bers, a 33-year-old Baltimore resident, was caught off guard after a couple of the Trump enthusiasts, dressed in cardboard masks, made their way inside to voice their opinions in front of patrons.

“It was all really disconcerting,” Bers said, “because they were really aggressive with people. I watched a woman of color leave with her son, and I heard one of the Trump supporters say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if nobody was on welfare,’ which is a very antagonizing thing to say to a  person of color.”

Stanley Drebin, owner of Goldberg’s, said he was unaware of anyone entering the store with Trump masks attempting to intimidate customers. If he had noticed anything like that, Drebin added, he would have told them to remove the headwear as soon as possible to avoid any potential confrontations.

“They were in the parking lot,” Drebin said. “They can do whatever they want there. When I saw them, they were outside the store.”

goldbergs2In 2016, the difficulty with mixing business and politics with figures as polarizing as Trump is that business owners run the risk of alienating customers.

So it should come as almost no surprise that within a day of the incident, on Oct. 31, longtime customers of Goldberg’s launched a boycott — at least they declared as much on Facebook.

“I used to make bagels that were really great. I’m also broke. I also don’t support Trump,” Nate Yielding wrote on Facebook in response to Bers’ post calling on other others to boycott Goldberg’s. “Maybe this is a good time to start again. What is a reasonable price to charge?”

At the time the masked people supposedly entered the shop, Drebin said he was “in the store, walking around the front, in [his] office in the back and many other places.”

Ruth Goetz, a Pikesville native and one of the six Trump supporters, said her  unplanned appearance at the shop was met with some resistance and even hostility. She was simply there to plead her case for Trump, urging Jewish voters to back the business mogul-turned-politician based on his strong pro-Israel stance, among other factors.

Goetz, who also sits on the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, believes the majority of Jews voted for Trump in the general election despite some of the anti-Semitic rhetoric that has been associated with his campaign.

“We have seen a lot of positive feedback with the Republican ticket, especially Trump,” said Goetz, who campaigned in Pikesville on Nov. 6 with Mark Plaster, the Republican candidate for District 3’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I just wanted to let people know we were proud supporters of [Trump] and that we are completely behind him.”

For his part, Drebin, a Trump backer, said he has welcomed supporters of both Democratic and Republican candidates to his store in the past and will continue to do so.

In the future, however, Drebin hopes not to see as much hostility as he  witnessed this election season.

“There were lots of people who were screaming at [the Trump supporters], cursing them out,” Drebin said. “It wasn’t very nice to me, because they were doing nothing but showing their support.”

Still, some customers such as Bers are not convinced enough was done to maintain a peaceful environment.

Because of that, Bers is unsure if he will ever return to Goldberg’s even though he admits he is a strong proponent of supporting local businesses regardless of a store owner’s political ties.

“It’s tough,” Bers said, “but I don’t think I’m going to be going back [to Goldberg’s] myself. At the end of the day, my primary concern is people need to be able to go out and not feel threatened, especially in the Jewish community.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Bnai Zion Brings Initiatives to Baltimore Daniel Nozick

From left: Brian Gibbons, Neil Meltzer and Guy Flynn were honored by Bnai Zion on Nov. 3. (Provided)

From left: Brian Gibbons, Neil Meltzer and Guy Flynn were honored by Bnai Zion on Nov. 3. (Provided)

The Bnai Zion Foundation, a national philanthropic organization that supports humanitarian projects in Israel and America, hosted its first event in Baltimore on Nov. 3 to honor three top local executives for their dedication to Israel and extensive philanthropic work.

Guy Flynn, a partner at DLA Piper; Brian J. Gibbons, chairman of the board and CEO of commercial developer Greenberg Gibbons; and Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health were honored for working closely with the Bnai Zion Foundation for several months to help raise funds for the organization’s recent project to benefit the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in Kiryat Bialik, Israel.

The organization, now in its second century, has completed hundreds of initiatives in Israel and in Jewish communities worldwide.

According to a Foundation news release, “Bnai Zion strongly supports the significant, enduring tie between America and Israel and is continuing its projects toward the advancement of the physical, mental and social well-being of the citizens of Israel.”

The Ahava Village for Children and Youth is an award-winning residential center for at-risk and abused children. Ahava, which means love in Hebrew, actually started as an orphanage in Germany. However, in 1938, a woman named Beate Berger realized what was happening in Germany and decided to bring all of the children from the orphanage to Israel, where she founded today’s Ahava Village.

“Ahava is a magical place that performs amazing transformations,” said Cheryl Bier, CEO of Bnai Zion. “Young children who the court has  removed from their homes due to abuse are left bereft of a healthy self-esteem and the ability to trust others. Ahava has programs to neutralize these experiences that shattered their sense of self.”

Examples of such programs are animal therapy, where interacting with and feeding animals teaches kids the joy of giving. Kids raise greenhouse vegetables to learn about building rather than tearing down. Various outlets through the arts allow these children to express themselves in healthy, creative manners.

Birth parents are brought in with supervised visits so they can interact with their children in a safe place, since many of these children are afraid of their parents. Complementary to these interactions, however, these children live family-style with “parents and siblings.”

Each foster care unit has 13 children plus the foster family. There are “chore boards” hung on the wall that say where each child is supposed to be and what they are meant to be doing. It is not only for the “parents” who are dealing with them, but also for social workers and teachers and whoever else interacts with the children day to day.

“We don’t want different people every day, we want consistency so that these kids can form relationships with these individuals,” said Bier. “They and their sibling eat and sleep together, have chores and participate in family discussions just like a real family would. The whole package transforms these dented kids into balanced, happy young adults who are once again whole and can function at their full potential.”

The funds raised by the three Baltimore honorees are slated to help fund the construction of a new on-site therapy center at the Village. According to Bier, “The new center will create an integrated therapeutic environment to help children work through the damaging effects of severe abuse and neglect. It will dramatically enhance the services that the children desperately require and allow all therapists and treatments to be easily  accessible under one roof.”

Bier explained that although children in Ahava undertake therapy currently, it is often in bomb shelters. She believes that a central, unified hub will help to make a positive impact in these children’s lives, even with small changes such as being in brightly colored rooms full of bright, natural light.

“Through my work at LifeBridge Health, I have been able to work in a field I am passionate about — providing top-notch health care for those in need,” says Neil Meltzer. “The Bnai Zion Foundation and the Ahava Village are two wonderful resources that help Israeli children gain access to life-changing services to improve their mental and physical health. The goals of LifeBridge and Ahava are closely connected, and I am proud to support their mission.”

Ahava is just one of the five initiatives that Bnai Zion is  involved with. There is also the Bnai Zion Medical Center, a 500-bed hospital and medical center that treats all individuals, regardless of race or religion. The Center’s windows overlook Syria and Lebanon. As a result, a rocket shell damaged the hospital during the wars in Lebanon in 2006. The current project aims to raise funds  toward completing an underground bunker for the hospital to ensure the safety of its residents in a time of crisis.

Another ongoing endeavor is building a center for a community of 40,000 senior citizens called Maale Adumim. The community, which houses more than 1,000 Holocaust survivors, has already had a cultural center, music conservatory and library installed by Bnai Zion. The next step is to build a senior center to help serve as a central gathering point for the community’s residents.

Other initiatives include the Quitman Center, which aids and houses developmentally disabled adults and individuals to help them better integrate into society, and the David Yellin College, a school funded by Bnai Zion that trains future educators on how to properly mentor people from a variety of castes ranging from early childhood to advanced age.

The Foundation is now reaching out to Baltimore and other communities to network, perform outreach and get people to learn more about the Bnai Zion Foundation and Israel.

“The only way to help Israel is to help people learn,” said Bier. “We are all about education — you educate first, and then, God willing, money will come in.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com