Reisterstown Keeps Eye on Prize

Nearly four years after the Reisterstown Improvement Association (RIA) formed, the Northwest Baltimore County town is making headway on revitalizing its often-overlooked Main Street area.

With the help of a dedicated county employee, Amy Mantay, as town manager, the Main Street Committee formed and set up Reisterstown to apply for Maryland Main Street status, which the group did this past spring. As Mantay’s two-year term approaches its end this fall, the town appears to be in better shape than it was when she arrived.

This summer saw the second installment of the RIA’s Music on Main Street series, which draws hundreds to Franklin Middle School for summer concerts, a farmers’ market and the dedication of $2 million by the Maryland State Highway Administration to streetscape projects. This weekend marks the 29th annual Reisterstown Festival.

“We’re still working to get things accomplished,” said RIA President Glenn Barnes.

The most recent victory came in the form of $2 million in roadway and sidewalk improvements and community enhancements. The money was announced in May at a news conference with Delegate Adrienne Jones, the speaker pro tem for the Maryland House of Delegates, and Maryland Transportation Secretary Jim Smith; at the ceremony, the pair also announced $762,000 for improvements in the Liberty Road corridor.

“These transportation enhancements and upgrades will make the corridors along Liberty Road in Randallstown and Main Street in Reisterstown safer for drivers and pedestrians and will enhance the beauty and charm in these thriving communities,” Jones said in a statement.

Phase 1 focuses on Stocksdale Road to Woodley Avenue, which is the part of Main Street that curves just north of the Chartley Shopping Center. This part of the project includes pavement resurfacing and remarking, reconstruction of sidewalks, curbs, gutters and driveway ramps as well as new pedestrian lights similar to the lantern-style lamps farther north on Main Street. Construction will begin after the Reisterstown Festival.

Phase 2 will bring the same improvements from Woodley Avenue to Glyndon Avenue and should begin in spring 2015.

In June, the state highway authority painted new pavement markings on Main Street, starting at the south end at Woodley Avenue and ending on the north end at MD-30 (Hanover Pike), to separate the driving lanes from the on-street parking areas.

A sign welcoming travelers to historic Reisterstown will also be installed in the southern entrance to the area, Barnes said.

As roadway and pedestrian façade improvements are made, commercial revitalization remains at the top of the agenda for Main Street advocates. The town’s new “sustainable community” designation could translate to some help in the area. In June, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Planning Department announced the designation for Reisterstown, which qualifies the town to apply for state funds on commercial revitalization, small business finance, business retention and attraction and home ownership encouragement.

More funding and resources could also come to Reisterstown in the near future via a Maryland Main Street designation. The program, which has a list of specific criteria Reisterstown has mostly met through the Main Street Committee, includes on-site visits and design assistance, commercial revitalization training and grants and loans education.

A hurdle to achieving that status, Barnes said, is that Reisterstown doesn’t have the required town manager, which many other Maryland Main Street locales have by virtue of being incorporated towns.

“We don’t think they’re going to allow that, so what we’re trying to do, we’ve sent letters out to large corporations and foundations hoping to get them to agree to sponsor our projects on Main Street and possibly our town manager,” he said. “There’s always a way if you look around.”

Barnes and his organization will be spreading the word about Main Street revitalization at this weekend’s Reisterstown Festival, which begins Saturday at 9 a.m. with the parade and runs through Sunday evening. The festival features more than 100 vendors, a large area for kids’ activities, a beer garden with a 6-foot TV that will be showing the Orioles game on Saturday and the Ravens game on Sunday, a car show, a stunt bicyclist and an eclectic variety of music including the Cris Jacobs Band, Carey Ziegler’s Expensive Hobby and Dean Drawford and the Dunn’s River Band.

Sherri Brogan, this year’s festival co-chair and a regular at Music on Main Street, sees the festival as a way for people to be with their community and get to know their neighbors.

“I think anytime you do an event like Music on Main Street, you’re bringing the community together,” she said. “I think that’s very special.”

With so much on the horizon for Reisterstown and all the nearby development in Owings Mills, Brogan and Barnes are feeling good about the town’s future.

“With the Metro Centre [at Owings Mills] expanding and Foundry Row and all that, there’s going to be a lot of people looking at this area; big restaurants and chain stores, they may want to be nearby, and we are nearby,” Barnes said.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Marylanders Volunteer in Israeli Hospital

Scott Goldstein, first engine lieutenant at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company, treats a patient at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Photos provided)

Scott Goldstein, first engine lieutenant at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company, treats a patient at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Photos provided)

Hospital officials were showing Evan Feuer around the emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon when they heard tires screeching outside. A woman in the car was in cardiac arrest.

Within minutes, and before doctors had arrived, the woman was intubated, had an IV placed and was breathing thanks to Feuer, who managed the woman’s airway, and hospital paramedics and nurses. Within a half hour she was off to the intensive care unit.

“That was my welcome to Israel, my first patient,” said Feuer, a Silver Spring native and paramedic of more than 20 years.

Feuer, four Baltimore residents and a Texas nurse were deployed on a week-long volunteer mission to the hospital to assist medical personnel in various capacities. Barzilai, located miles from Gaza, was inundated with patients during Operation Protective Edge.

Joining Feuer on the mission were Scott Goldstein, first engine lieutenant at the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company; Scott Weiner, an EMS lieutenant at the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company; and two members of Hatzalah of Baltimore, Jonathan Lerner and David Heyman. The Texas participant was Wendi Schambach.

They were deployed through the Emergency Volunteers Project, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that recruits and trains emergency service workers to back up first responders in Israel. The need for EVP volunteers arises during conflicts, an EVP official said, when demand for medical services is high but manpower is reduced as Israeli EMTs in the reserves are called to the frontlines or serve in infantry. With no mutual aid agreements with its neighbors, Israel calls in outside help, in this case through EVP.

The organization, which started four years ago, works with 600 personnel in the U.S., and seeks people with years of experience in high-pressure environments. EVP raises money on an as-needed basis for the deployments and trainings, an official said.

This deployment was EVP’s second during Operation Protective Edge. The first sent firefighters to respond to rocket attacks along the Gaza border and elsewhere. Those volunteers extinguished a brush fire in a kibbutz’s field that was hit by a rocket.

Scott Goldstein (center) and Scott Weiner (right) discuss a surgery they assisted in with Emergency Volunteers Project CEO Adi Zahavi.

Scott Goldstein (center) and Scott Weiner (right) discuss a surgery they assisted in with Emergency Volunteers Project CEO Adi Zahavi.

The most recent deployment sent the six Americans to Barzilai, an almost 600-bed facility that has seen more than 1,500 patients during the latest military operations. Those who volunteered were called Sunday evening, Aug. 24, and were on planes to Israel within 48 hours. The deployment’s last day was Monday.

“It’s a way for me to step up and help my friends and family over here, and normally, I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Goldstein, who had been to Israel twice prior to this deployment. “Hopefully, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Weiner, who had the support of his wife and kids, said going on the deployment was a no-brainer.

“I didn’t really think twice about it,” he said. “The reality of it is, it’s our homeland. That’s how I feel about it.”

His family’s foundation, the Roz and Marvin H. Weiner Family Foundation, was one of several organizations that sponsored the deployment. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and Texas-based John Hagee Ministries also sponsored the trip.

For The Associated, devoting resources to EVP met its requirements of specific, meaningful and safe work.

“We wanted to support our sister city,” said Mary Haar, director of The Associated’s Israel and Overseas department. “They’re doing good work in Ashkelon.”

The six volunteers spent their time working in Barzilai’s emergency room, operating room and intensive care unit and helped with intake of patients
as well. In addition to the woman in cardiac arrest, patients they helped included a boy with severe burns from an at-home accident, a patient with a bad snakebite and a bicyclist critically injured in a car accident.

By the end of the deployment, hospital staff and EVP volunteers were working together seamlessly.

For Feuer, who spent 15 months in Iraq as a medic and a combat medical trainer, it was easy to see the need for EVP.

“They were getting overwhelmed with patients. This is a small, 18-bed ER [that] had to process 70 to 80 patients an hour,” said Feuer, who works part time as a paramedic in Trenton, N.J., and runs several businesses. “They were overwhelmed, their facility was overwhelmed, and their staff was overwhelmed, and our role was to ease some of that burden as much as we were able to.”

Before heading home, EVP volunteers were honored at a hospital ceremony, which was attended by American Embassy officials, and met with members of the Knesset.

Volunteers walked away from the experience with several impressions and ideas. Things at the hospital seem to be returning to normal, or “standard insanity,” Feuer said.

Goldstein and Weiner hope to start a Baltimore chapter of EVP to help with future recruits and training. But ultimately, they left feeling like they helped out in a conflict that can seem so far away from the U.S.

“I lived in Israel in the past,” Feuer said. “As an American Jew, looking at the news every day, seeing what’s going without being able to lay your hands down and affect any difference is difficult.”

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Bikur Cholim Hosts First Bike-A-Thon

Bikur Cholim of Baltimore expects to raise around $70,000 at its first bike-a-thon on Sunday, Sept. 7.

The organization, which provides services to Jewish patients with medical issues in hospitals and in the community, expects about 150 riders to participate in the ride through rural Baltimore County.

“It’s a good way to raise money and for people to have fun, and it certainly promotes a healthy lifestyle,” said Aron Katz, the group’s president. “Getting exercise fits into our mission, and at the same time [the event is] raising awareness and raising funds.”

Bikur Cholim provides transportation to medical appointments and delivery of fresh kosher meals and has two apartments for families from out of town who come to Baltimore for medical treatment, kosher pantries and hospitality suites at local hospitals Johns Hopkins, Sinai and University of Maryland. The organization has 350 volunteers, 40 of whom visit patients every week in various hospitals.

The bike-a-thon has 40-, 25- and 10-mile rides, all of which start and end at Beth Tfiloh Congregation.

When the ride is over, there will be a barbeque for riders and their families that features kids’ activities and a short program.

For more information, visit baltimorebikurcholim.org.

Federoff Approaches 200 State Fair Ribbons

Ellen Federoff with her 19 needlepoint works that won awards at this year’s Maryland State Fair.  (Provided)

Ellen Federoff with her 19 needlepoint works that won awards at this year’s Maryland State Fair. (Provided)

Three years after emerging from a coma, Randallstown resident Ellen Federoff continues to be recognized for the hobby that is keeping the largely bedridden woman active.

Federoff’s needlepoint work, as of this year’s Maryland State Fair contest, has earned her 199 ribbons in various contests.

“I’ve already started for next year, and I’m really into it right now,” she said. “I’m headed for 200.”

The needlepoint, in addition to being an avid reader and a dedicated, mother, grandmother and aunt, are what keep her going these days. Three years ago, her heart stopped and her kidneys failed, putting her in a coma. She survived but spends much of her time on bed rest while receiving IV fluids.

She has entered the state fair’s needlepoint competitions almost every year since 1996.

This year, 18 of the 19 pieces she submitted placed in the Top 4, and it’s possible the 19th piece placed or received an honorable mention.

Among the award-winning pieces this year were a birth announcement for her “great nephew” that incorporated stickers from his nursery theme, a pillow she made for a retired friend that says “Shh, retired person sleeping” and an old-fashioned poodle dress that used certain threads to make the hoop part of the dress look like a poodle’s hair.

“I personally feel that the stitch and textures, the difference in the textures make it much more exciting, much more visual,” she said.

For next year, she’s already completed two sweaters and is working on a 3-D piece that will look like a music store in memory of a grandparent who taught music.

“To be perfectly honest, if I didn’t have the needlepoint and if I wasn’t an avid reader, it would be horrendous for me,” Federoff said.

Jewish Patriots

As Baltimore and Maryland commemorate the American victory over the British in the War of 1812 and honor Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner” — inspired by the sight of Fort McHenry’s tattered flag that “was still there” after the 1814 Battle of Baltimore — local institutions are shedding light on the contributions of Jewish patriots that helped secure the nation’s freedom.

Mendes Cohen (Portrait of Mendes Cohen, 1818 by Joseph Wood. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Mendes Cohen
(Portrait of Mendes Cohen, 1818 by Joseph Wood. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum)

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s new exhibit, “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, the Most Extraordinary Baltimorean You’ve Never Heard Of,” and the Levy Center and Jewish Chapel in Annapolis, in particular, are ensuring that these often-overlooked heroes and their stories are remembered.

Sometimes referred to as the second American Revolution, the War of 1812 permanently dissolved European strongholds on the United States and cemented the young nation as an entity in charge of its own destiny. In the years following it, a strong sense of American identity developed, and the flag became a powerful emblem of that identity.

The Jewish museum casts the story of Mendes Cohen as paralleling that development of a national psyche, said its director, Marvin Pinkert.

“Cohen is trying to answer for himself, ‘What does it mean to be American and Jewish?’ He is the first generation [of his family] to be born in the United States of America,” said Pinkert. “That’s what the core [of the exhibit] is about, the process of finding one’s identity and the ways in which people build their identity.”

Born in Richmond in 1796, Cohen died in Baltimore in 1879, living at the time a very long life. Of Sephardic descent, one facet of Cohen’s identity was that of soldier, and at the Battle of Baltimore — unlike Key, who viewed the engagement from a ship offshore — “Cohen wasn’t watching, he was in Fort McHenry,” said Pinkert. Cohen volunteered for Capt. Nicholson’s Baltimore Fencibles artillery unit (volunteers were not required to swear oath upon a New Testament Bible, something Cohen refused to do) and was one of three men who bravely retrieved the main supply of gunpowder from its storage inside the fort after a bomb had landed in the magazine.

Cohen and his fellow artillerymen saved the gunpowder supply — and the fort — from detonating.

While his life story strongly relates to the wider regional commemoration of the War of 1812, the museum sees Cohen’s biography as a jumping-off point. The new exhibit urges visitors to consider the events after the war through the lens of American identity and the “light it casts on the entire century that follows,” said Pinkert, who curated the museum experience with Deborah Cardin.

The physical exhibition space, designed as a spiral within a spiral, allows visitors to move through an outer loop that illustrates events in Cohen’s family life and that of his five brothers and a sister and an inner loop that displays simultaneous events in Baltimore and throughout the 19th-century Jewish world. Visitors can move back and forth between the storylines, which include hundreds of artifacts, letters and diaries from Cohen’s life, some on loan from the Maryland Historical Society and the Johns Hopkins University Archeological Museum.

Pinkert described Cohen’s “almost unbelievable” life experience as part “Forrest Gump” — he seemed to show up everywhere, including at London’s Westminster Abby for Queen Victoria’s 1838 coronation, at the Vatican for the installation of a new pope and even in Paris during the French Revolution. An adventurer, Cohen was also part “Indiana Jones,” said Pinkert with a laugh. Between 1829 and 1835, he visited England, Russia, Europe and Turkey, was the first American tourist in Jerusalem and even floated down the Nile River collecting Egyptian artifacts.

Cohen seemed to repeatedly try on different identities, Pinkert said, as a businessman in the banking, lottery and railroad industries, and he was also a philanthropist as member of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, forerunner of today’s The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. When Cohen returned from his travels, he became involved in politics and championed the Jew Bill, a law that dissolved the mandatory swearing-in upon a Christian Bible in order to take public office. He was a delegate in the Maryland General Assembly in 1847 and a delegate to the State Peace Convention during the Civil War. Cohen lived life as both a member of elite society as well as a persecuted minority.

“The idea is to use Cohen’s adventure experience to illustrate the global experience of Jews of the time as well,” explained Pinkert. “How did it happen that there was this tremendous transformation of life for Jews; the way the hope of equality and citizenship [arose] in both Europe and America?”

The Cohen exhibit is interactive, and visitors are welcomed by a multimedia “ghost” of Cohen that ushers them through the journey; they have the opportunity to re-create some of Cohen’s experiences, such as the rescue of gunpowder during the Battle of Baltimore.

But the message Pinkert hopes visitors come away with after seeing Cohen’s many incarnations unravel before them is to consider what comprises their own complex identity.

“We started with what many people would consider an obscure piece of history,” said Pinkert, “and we ended with something that is focused on what touches our lives.”

Uriah Levy (Provided)

Uriah Levy
(Provided)

‘Saving Monticello’
While Cohen was on land fighting for freedom at Fort McHenry, his naval counterpart, Uriah P. Levy, was at sea battling British forces.

There is no documentation that the two Jewish servicemen knew each other, noted journalist, historian and author Marc Leepson, but Levy’s story has also drawn local interest. Leepson himself decided to study the man because of a persistent uncle who shared a hunch for a good story.

On a return trip from visiting Jefferson’s Monticello home in Virginia, Leepson’s uncle asked, “Did you know that Jews owned Monticello? You should write a book about it.” Leepson shrugged it off, but his uncle kept harping on it, so “I said I’d write a magazine article and [Preservation Magazine] gave me the cover,” recalled the historian. “Sometimes the articles turn into books. I got so much response to that article, I wrote the book in 2001.”

Leepson’s book, “Saving Monticello,” is Uriah P. Levy’s story, beginning when he was born in Philadelphia in 1792 as a fifth-generation Sephardic Jewish American — unique for that time — from great-great-grandparents who escaped Lisbon during the Inquisition of 1733.

Levy was fiercely patriotic — growing up, his heroes were George Washington and John Paul Jones — and he ran away from home at age 10 to be a cabin boy on a ship, allegedly promising his parents he’d be home in time for his bar mitzvah, which he celebrated on time. Levy cultivated great skills as a sailor and also bought in as part owner of a merchant ship at age 19. Then in 1812 at age 20, Levy joined the Navy to help defend his country.

Very adept as a seaman, he became assistant sailing master on the USS Argus, the most feared U.S. ship during the War of 1812, having captured more than 20 British vessels. But Levy then became a prisoner of war, was held in Dartmoor, England for 16 months and returned to the United States in 1815.

Ultimately Levy served a 50-year career in the Navy, but like his imprisonment, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

“For one thing, the Navy was noted as a hotbed of anti-Semitism,” said Leepson. “He was court-martialed five times and thrown out of the Navy twice, then reinstated by two presidents.”

Leepson said the incidents over which he was court-martialed were typically “someone calling him a dirty Jew and [Levy] punching him in the face.” He was tried, arrested, and to be fair, Leepson said, he had a temper.

“So he overcame a lot to keep that Navy career and become a commodore,” said Leepson.

Battle Scars

This colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) reveals some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. (CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith via Wikimedia)

This colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) reveals some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion.
(CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith via Wikimedia)

With the news that Maryland will be home to some of the latest efforts to develop a vaccine to combat Ebola, the deadly outbreak taking place on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is seemingly getting closer and closer.

At American Jewish World Service, the outbreak resulted in a halt in regular programming in order to host emergency funding for the organization’s partners in West Africa.

“In Liberia we have grassroots organizations on the ground that have been doing organizing, fighting for women’s rights, fighting for land rights,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. The organization provided the extra funds to the already-established groups they work with on a regular basis that have, in recent weeks, turned their attention to combating the spread of Ebola.

“They are human rights and anti-poverty groups that are community-based, so the people in those organizations know their own communities, and they are better equipped, I think, probably than anybody to step forward and do public health outreach, public health education, disease prevention,” she added.

Having worked in Liberia for years, AJWS recognized that a general mistrust in government can make public education difficult. The groups the organization has chosen to fund will use the money to operate largely through person-to-person outreach and radio programming to teach people how to recognize symptoms of the virus and what steps to take when they come into contact with someone who might have the illness.

Though AJWS only works in one country that is experiencing an outbreak, Liberia, Messinger said she and her staff are also working with community organizations in neighboring countries to educate people before the problem spreads.

“We’re actually in the process, I believe, of making a grant to one group that we have worked with for a long time in Senegal,” she said. “This is a group that basically does public organizing and education. They’re journalists and rappers, and they use music” to raise public awareness.

While Messinger and AJWS were proud of the more than $100,000 they raised in just one week to combat the outbreak, the news hasn’t all been good.

AJWS doesn’t send volunteers to its Liberia office on a regular basis, but it does organize regular donor trips that allow those who help fund the programs to see their dollars at work. Last month, the group announced the cancellation of a February 2015 trip to Liberia.

“I don’t think a long line of people are ready to go over to a country that they’ve, in most cases, probably never been to and don’t know anything about to put on a protective suit and try to reach people who might potentially infect them with a terminal disease,” she said.

Meanwhile, this week in Bethesda, the National Institutes of Health began early stage trials of a vaccine intended to prevent infection by the Ebola virus.

Twenty people will participate in the first round of trials using human patients. Guidelines require that subjects be healthy adults not infected with the virus. The trial will monitor the subjects’ immune response to the drug.

“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases researcher, in a statement. “The NIH is playing a key role in accelerating the development and testing of investigational Ebola vaccines.”

The key to prevention is through public health education, Fauci added, but a vaccine would be a great tool to use alongside tools like adequate protective equipment and quarantine.

According to a release by the NIH, the vaccine delivers one fragment of Ebola’s genetic material to the patient’s cells. Instead of replicating, the fragment is met with an immune response in the vaccine recipient. The individual cannot be infected with Ebola, the release stated.

Prior to the launch of the human trial, the vaccine was tested on primates, a trial that the organization said was successful.

‘Robbery, Extortion, Trafficking’

Sen. Marco Rubio (left) and Sen. Bob Casey (Consolidated News Photos/Newscom, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Sen. Marco Rubio (left) and Sen. Bob Casey
(Consolidated News Photos/Newscom, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

With concern over the apparent growing strength and spread of the Islamic State, the terror group that has beheaded two American journalists in as many weeks, Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), despite the Senate’s summer recess, have sent a joint letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling on the administration to target all aspects of the Islamic State’s operation funding and to have the Treasury Department classify the group as a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO).

The senators praised current efforts by the administration to combat the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS and ISIL, in the letter, but they expressed concern that the jihadi group remains a threat to both the region and U.S. national security interests.

“ISIS’s criminal activities — robbery, extortion, and trafficking — have helped the organization become the best-funded terrorist group in history,” the senators wrote. “This wealth has helped expand their operational capacity and incentivized both local and foreign fighters to join them.”

The senators’ letter described some of the methods used by the terror group to fund itself.

The “cash flow from this criminal enterprise relies on smuggling routes and black market sales. Reporting indicates that some smuggling routes cross through other countries in the region, which, like the United States, have a clear national security interest in maintaining stability,” Casey and Rubio wrote. “Additionally, there are reports that some government officials in the region have helped to facilitate this illicit cross-border trade.”

The black market the senators referred to is believed to have sprouted as a result of the region’s growing instability, a consequence of the civil war in Syria and the marginalization of minorities, specifically Iraq’s Sunni Muslims by outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s majority Shiite Muslim administration in Baghdad.

The Islamic State is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was led by the late Jordanian militant Islamist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The group’s extreme viciousness led al-Qaeda to cut ties with it, and, according to Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, most of al-Qaeda’s deep-pocketed, Gulf-based terror financiers remained with the parent organization, forcing the Islamic State to adopt unorthodox revenue methods.

At first glance, the senators’ request that the administration cut off the group’s funding sources looked to some like political posturing. The Islamic State, after all, was classified by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2004, and its assets within the United States’ control were frozen. That designation further established sanctions for cooperating economically with the group.

The State Department has not yet replied to the senators’ letter, but one Senate staffer familiar with the letter said the administration’s reply might be that it already has all the tools necessary to restrict funding, given the Islamic State’s current designation, and is using them.

Some, however, say the administration could do more.

“I think there are [additional] things we can do to try and cut off the funding; it’s really hard,” said Austin Long, assistant professor in security policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “Even when there were 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at the height of the surge, we couldn’t cut off all the funding to al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of the Islamic State.”

When a group is designated a TCO, its operations are restricted as outlined in Executive Order 13581, which prevents members of TCO-designated organizations, and those aiding and abetting them, from transferring, paying, exporting or withdrawing assets in the United States “or in an overseas branch of a U.S. entity.” Some of the groups presently listed as TCOs include the Brothers’ Circle (Eurasia), Camorra (Italy), Yakuza (Japan), Los Zetas (Mexico), Yamaguchi-Gumi (Japan) and Mara Salvatrucha (El Salvador).

Casey and Rubio are part of a larger group of lawmakers pushing to include the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah under TCO classification in the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. The bill was passed unanimously by the House in July and is awaiting approval from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department, said that the additional designation would allow for a broader scope to investigate and cut off the group’s funding sources.

“It allows the intelligence community to work with a broader array of actors to counter [the Islamic State], and it allows for the FBI to have a greater role as well,” said Schanzer. “It basically widens the ability of the United States government to act on multiple levels with multiple players inside and outside the United States. If it’s considered a criminal organization, the FBI can look into whatever assets may be here. So, in other words, it becomes a warfare issue as well as a criminal one.”

Operating like an organized crime family, the Islamic State has surprised — and even, in a dark sense, impressed — the international community with its numerous creative methods to fund itself.

“IS has managed to successfully translate territorial control in northern Syria and portions of Iraq into a means of revenue generation,” said a Treasury Department spokesperson. “IS generates a large portion of its revenue from smuggling, extortion and robbery in areas under the group’s control as well as from ransoms received for hostages it has kidnapped. The group also benefits from extortion-derived proceeds from Iraqi and Syrian oil resources.”

Taking a page from al-Qaeda in Iraq’s former playbook, it has developed sophisticated fundraising tactics to make use of the resources in the areas they conquer. Once in control of a city or resource rich area, it threatens the local population with violence and seizes control of basic resources such as water and other necessities, said experts.

“The common assumption has been for a long time, and I don’t know where it comes from, but there are a lot of people who have surmised that IS’s funding comes from various Gulf individuals or a number of different Gulf governments including Qatar and Kuwait. This is not true,” said Lee Smith, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “There has been some money in the past, but this is not the main source of IS’s funding. The main source of funding comes from the fact that IS sells oil on the black market. That’s the No. 1 source of income. The No. 2 source of IS income is its extortion rackets in towns it runs — and it runs a few, including Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, which are both fairly large Arab cities.”

IS’s single most profitable venture is the selling of oil that is produced in areas under the group’s control. Upon occupying an oil field or oil-producing city, the group makes the local populace an offer it can’t refuse, said Columbia’s Long.

“That’s what they try to do. People don’t always cooperate, but in general, if somebody says, ‘We’re going to keep paying your salary, just keep showing up for work [because] the alternative might be something bad happens to you, then you can either keep showing up for work or you can become a refugee, and I think a decent number of people don’t want to become refugees understandably,” explained Long, who previously served in Iraq as an analyst and adviser to the Multinational Force Iraq and the U.S. military.

Much of the oil is then sold internally to the Syrian and Iraqi residents of Islamic State-occupied territories.

“People have lots of cars,” said Long. “Iraq [is] just like every modern country but in some sense it is more dependent on [oil]. You need trucks to move food around — without gasoline, the economy grinds to a halt.”

The rest of the oil is smuggled out and sold abroad and, surprisingly, some of the buyers include opposing governments, such as the Syrian regime and Turkey.

“That’s a pretty typical feature of Arab warfare,” said Smith. “People make all sorts of deals with all sorts of different people.”

Determining who exactly is bypassing sanctions and buying oil from IS sources — or even exactly how much of it is being bought — is difficult to determine.

“The oil could be going across the border in Turkey and the Turks maybe aren’t asking too many question about who it comes from, hypothetically, because of course it won’t be necessarily somebody waving the Islamic State flag who drives the tanker truck across the border,” said Long.

According to a recent estimate by BBC News, the Islamic State exports about 9,000 barrels of oil per day at prices ranging from about $25 to $45 a barrel — a significant discount from the current international price of around $100 a barrel.

Casey and Rubio’s letter mentions that some of the Islamic State’s funding is supported by allied countries in the region, and Schanzer sees room for the United States to do more to pressure these nations, specifically Turkey, into doing more to crackdown on this illicit trade, even though Turkish officials have publicly denied that country’s involvement and condemned the terror group.

“If you look at the map, you will see that IS maintains a presence all along the eastern Turkish frontier, just on the other side of the border, and we don’t have definitive proof that there’s been direct assistance, but anecdotally we continue to hear that there are individuals and entities operating on the other side of the Turkish border who are facilitating this activity,” said Schanzer. “I think that it is fair to say at this point that Turkey’s permissive border policies over the last two years or more have led to a rise in jihadi groups’ ability to finance their operations, arm their fighters and provide other assistance to these groups.”


dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com

JNS.org contributed to this story.

Moving On

Rabbi Karol Sidon stepped down as Prague's chief rabbi amid  reports about his love life. (Provided)

Rabbi Karol Sidon stepped down as Prague’s chief rabbi amid reports about his love life.
(Provided)

PRAGUE — When the novel “Altschul’s Method” hit the shelves in Czech bookstores in March, it was hailed as a brilliant political and psychological thriller combining elements of science fiction, alternate history and Jewish mysticism.

But it became a true literary sensation when it was revealed a week later that the book’s supposed author, Chaim Cigan, was a pseudonym for Karol Sidon, the longtime chief rabbi of Prague.

Sidon had explained that he was writing under a pseudonym mainly to draw a distinction between his literary work and his duties for Prague’s Jewish community.

“Such writing does not befit a rabbi,” he told a Czech news website.

“Being a rabbi has its limits,” Sidon explained in the interview. “I won’t lie; I wanted to quit some time ago, and it will happen sooner or later.”

But it was more than a passion for literature that led Sidon to step down as chief rabbi in June, earlier than he had planned.

His resignation came amid reports that he had separated from his third wife and become engaged to one of his former conversion students.

Sidon’s departure marks the end of an era for the Prague Jewish community. The first post-communist chief rabbi of Prague, Sidon, a former dissident, symbolized the revival of Czech Jewry following decades in which religion was suppressed.

“His arrival at the post was crucial for the community,” said Charles Wiener, a former executive director of the Prague Jewish community who lives in Geneva, Switzerland. “All institutions in then-Czechoslovakia were in the shadow of communism and collaboration, and suddenly someone came who had not been collaborating but was in fact thrown out of the country by the communist authorities.”

But Sidon leaves behind a divided community struggling to overcome a conflict in which he played a prominent role.

The combination of a generational gap, religious disagreements, accusations of cronyism and personality conflicts contributed to intra-communal tensions during his tenure. A decade ago, Sidon was even removed from his post when a new communal leadership took charge, only to be reinstated when his allies regained control of the community.

In the wake of Sidon’s resignation, his friends have been notably quiet. Sidon and several other community leaders declined interview requests.

Jakub Roth, 41, who served as the Prague Jewish community’s deputy chair between 2005 and 2008 and has been a Sidon supporter, said the rabbi’s resignation had long been anticipated. But he would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Sidon’s decision.

Prague Jewish leaders have chosen Rabbi David Peter, 38, to succeed Sidon. A native of Prague, Peter is an Orthodox rabbi who returned to the Czech capital in 2011 after 13 years of studies in Israel.

Sidon also asked for an unpaid six-month leave from his duties in the largely ceremonial position as chief rabbi of the Czech Republic. The head of the country’s Federation of Jewish Communities, Petr Papousek, said that Sidon would return to the post after his hiatus.

Sidon, who just turned 72, is known for his scholarly demeanor and biting sense of humor. An Orthodox Jew, he focused much of his energy on encouraging greater religious observance among Prague’s largely secular Jews, who are estimated to number some 6,000, though only about 1,800 are officially registered as community members.

Sidon’s tenure has seen the growth of a small but active traditionally observant segment of the city’s Jewish community. But Sidon also has accumulated critics during his more than two decades in office.

Sylvie Wittmann, the founder of a liberal Prague Jewish congregation, Bejt Simcha, who sits on the Prague Jewish community board, believes it would make sense if Sidon retired from his rabbinical duties altogether.

“If he’s embarked on a new life, literary or private, he should pursue it,” she said. “We should thank him for his efforts. He did what he could. But a self-searching, three-times-divorced, egocentric man cannot really be considered a serious figure respected by his community or a good rabbi.”

Sidon became the chief rabbi of both Prague and Czechoslovakia in 1992, less than three years after the fall of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia. A respected writer and ally of Czech dissident and future president Vaclav Havel, Sidon had lived in exile in Germany, where he studied at the College of Jewish Studies in Heidelberg.

By 1990, Sidon’s fellow dissidents and intellectuals had replaced discredited communist-era officials at the Jewish community and asked him to take over the rabbinate. He agreed, going on to study at the Ariel Institute in Jerusalem and to be ordained as an Orthodox rabbi before finally returning to Prague.

Sidon’s path to Judaism was not straightforward. The son of a Christian mother and a Jewish father who was murdered in the Terezin concentration camp in 1944, Sidon formally converted to Judaism in 1978. At that time he found himself under immense pressure from the secret police after signing the Czechoslovakian human rights manifesto Charter 77.

“What made me want to convert was my experience with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and with Charter 77,” Sidon told the Terezin Initiative Newsletter in 2005. “To put it short, I realized that I had a soul, and my commitment to God emerged from that.”

Although Sidon only adopted Orthodox Judaism during his rabbinical studies in Israel, his strategy for reviving the Prague Jewish community after four decades of communism consisted of focusing on observance of halachah, or Jewish religious law, and building up religious life.

In the eyes of the public, Sidon soon became the symbol of a new chapter in the life of Czech Jews and of their opposition to communism. But his approach met with opposition from some community members.

“He pushed us into an Orthodox box, which drove many people away,” Michaela Vidlakova, a Holocaust survivor and a longtime community member, said.

Sidon clashed with more religiously liberal Prague Jews who wanted communal recognition of non-Orthodox congregations and of those who had Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers.

Eventually, the community offered those who traced their Jewish identities only from their fathers what was called “extraordinary” membership in 2003, without the possibility of running for leadership positions. By that time, however, controversies over control of the real estate-rich community’s finances and other issues had raised tensions between Sidon and supporters of Tomas Jelinek, who was elected community chairman in 2001.

In 2004, Jelinek moved to oust Sidon as Prague chief rabbi, alleging that he had failed to carry out his duties.

“He wasn’t able to groom a successor, there were always problems with kosher food at the community and scores of other things,” Jelinek said.

Jelinek appointed Rabbi Manis Barash, a representative of the U.S.-based Chabad Hasidic movement, to take over Prague’s famed Altneu Synagogue. But in November of that year, Jelinek suffered a staggering defeat in a communal vote that eventually resulted in him being removed as leader.

Emotions continued to run high for several months. In April 2005, members of the Sidon and Barash minyans had a fistfight during Shabbat prayers at the Altneu Synagogue.

A year-and-a-half after his initial ouster, Sidon was reinstated as Prague’s chief rabbi.

Since then, the community has become more pluralistic, with several liberal leaders having been elected to the board. At the same time, a number of people have left to form their own group, the Jewish Liberal Union.

Sidon had been planning to retire in the fall, but on June 23 the Prague Jewish community suddenly announced he would be stepping down, citing his age.

The announcement came a day after a Czech Jewish blog run by Jelinek reported that Sidon had separated from his wife and was in a new relationship.

Sidon’s critics circulated a rumor that the Prague beit din, or rabbinical court, ordered him to step down. But the court’s chair, Rabbi Noah Landsberg, who lives in Israel, said that Sidon himself offered to step down.

“He sent me a letter some time ago and said he had some personal problems, and he also mentioned his age. The court agreed,” Landsberg said.

Sidon’s successor will be following a rabbi who has left a large mark on the Prague community.

During his term as Prague chief rabbi, Sidon has translated a number of religious texts into Czech, including the Pentateuch, a Haggadah, a siddur and a machzor. He also played a major role in establishing the Lauder School of Prague, which combines kindergarten, elementary and high school, enrolling some 150 students.

“Rabbi Sidon has made the community more visible and played an important role in establishing very good relations with the country’s new democratic governments,” said Alena Heitlinger, the Czech-born, Canada-based author of “In the Shadows of the Holocaust and Communism: Czech and Slovak Jews Since 1945.”

But she added that his focus on Orthodoxy has left those who are not Jewish according to halachah not feeling completely welcome.

“It is still an issue,” Heitlinger said.

Wiener, however, said that Sidon should not be blamed for disappointing some of the more liberal members of the community.

“The problem was on their side rather than his,” he said, “because as an Orthodox rabbi, he could not have really behaved differently.”

A Liberal Defense

Texas Gov. Rick Perry seems confident about the outcome of the indictment against him for abusing the power of his office.  (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry seems confident about the outcome of the indictment against him for abusing the power of his office.
(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Proudly flaunting the list of liberal pundits who have criticized his recent indictment on two felony charges, Rick Perry, the staunchly pro-Israel Texas governor and likely GOP presidential candidate, blasted the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East Aug. 21 in front of an audience of policy wonks and journalists more interested in his legal predicament than the topic he was originally scheduled to discuss.

Although Perry was booked to speak about the crisis on the United States’ border with Mexico by the Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, the governor spent the majority of his speech criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of Middle East issues and criticized the president’s actions against the militant jihadist group the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Yet, with his recent indictment, Perry spent some time satisfying the audiences’ curiosity on how he feels about the legal situation in which he now finds himself.

“There are a few public officials in Travis County who have taken issue with an exercise of my constitutional veto authority. These are, fundamentally, principles that are very important — namely a governor’s power to veto legislation and funding and the right of free speech,” said Perry enthusiastically, knowing that the majority of the audience was supporting him. “I am very confident in my case, and I can assure you that I will fight this attack on our system of government; and with my fellow citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, I aim to defend our Constitution and stand up for the rule of law in the state of Texas.”

On Aug. 15, a Texas grand jury decided to indict Perry, charging him with abusing the power of his office for his well-publicized attempts to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat and head of the Travis County public integrity unit, to resign from her position following an April 2013 drunk driving arrest for which she pleaded guilty.

Following Lehmberg’s arrest for driving three times over the legal alcohol limit and brief jail stay — from which a video surfaced of Lehmberg’s belligerent behavior toward police — Perry requested that she resign her position. Upon her refusal, Perry threatened and then followed through on defunding her office, exercising his line-item veto powers to cut $7.5 million of the state government’s share of the unit’s budget.

The charges against Perry would mean five to 99 years in prison if convicted. Yet, the governor appears confident and unconcerned — even playful. A mug shot that went viral last month shows the governor smirking. After posing for the shot at the Travis County Sheriff’s office, Perry went out for ice cream.

Perry’s confidence stems in large part from the outpouring of support he has since received — from his usual supporters, but more importantly from a number of prominent liberal politicos, pundits, legal scholars and publications.

“When David Axelrod, Lanny Davis, Alan Dershowitz, Jonathan Chait all say that this is ‘sketchy,’ ‘outrageous,’ ‘totalitarian’ and ‘McCarthy-ite,’ I agree with them,” said Perry to laughter and applause from the audience. “And that’s just on the Democratic side of the aisle!”

The surprise outpouring from prominent liberals in support of the governor has been essential in forming the public’s perception of the case. On Aug. 18, the editorial board of The New York Times, a common target of Republicans, denounced the pettiness of the charges against Perry despite slamming him for his political positions.

Dershowitz, a prominent Harvard law professor, critic of conservative policies and politicians, had even harsher words about the indictment in an interview with the right-leaning publication, Newsmax.

“The two statutes under which he was indicted are reminiscent of the old Soviet Union — you know, abuse of authority,” Dershowitz told the publication.

Dershowitz pointed out that the unit Lehmberg ran was also responsible for convicting former GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in 2010 for campaign finance irregularities — something Dershowitz called an “outrage.” DeLay’s conviction was overturned in 2013 by an appellate court.

With the indictment, Perry joins two other national Republican politicians considered likely contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, involved in an investigation into politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington bridge between New Jersey and New York City, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is being investigated on accusations of illegal campaign coordination with outside political groups.

“I think this indictment is a shandah! They’ve always said you can indict a tuna fish sandwich,” said prominent Texas businessman and Republican political donor Fred Zeidman, who has known Perry since
before he became governor. “There is absolutely no reason for it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not even sure they’re felonies that he arguably committed.”

From the moment the news broke, Zeidman thought that the indictment would backfire on the Democrats who are supporting it, mentioning that in most circles, especially among conservatives, Perry’s popularity appears to be growing as a result of the case.

“This won’t hurt him at all [politically] I don’t think,” Zeidman said. “In retrospect it’s going to cost [the state] a bunch of money.”

However, Zeidman suggested being careful because of the risk that something new might yet come out during a trial.

Caution is well advised, says Texas trial attorney and prominent Democratic donor, Marc Stanley.

“I generally have faith in the system. I haven’t seen the evidence that the grand jury has, and I’ve got to believe they wouldn’t have indicted him if there wasn’t something there,” said Stanley, adding that as long as Lehmberg’s drunk driving conviction went through the proper legal channels, it should be irrelevant to whether she is able to hold her position.

“We react to 30-second sound bites instead of looking at the evidence that the special prosecutor, a Republican, and the grand jury looked at,” said Stanley. “I think that’s probably more telling than the sound bites that we’ve seen.”

A measure of suspicion exists as to the governor’s motive to defund Lehmberg’s office in addition to her drunk driving conviction. Lehmberg was elected by the mostly Democratic Travis County voters, and her unit is tasked with investigating officials in public office, who are mostly Republicans, since they have a supermajority in the Texas legislature.

Although no candidate has yet officially announced his or her intention to run in the 2016 primaries, Perry has been one of a handful of national-level politicians considered likely to run and, during the past several months, has been a common sight on national media outlets.

During this time, he has visited and spoken favorably about Israel, even telling a New York Times Magazine reporter “I’m more Jewish than you think I am.”

“He’s had this incredible passion for Israel,” Zeidman said. “He understands Israel —what it is and what it stands for, and that Israel is America’s only friend in the Middle East; and he was passionate about it when it meant nothing for him.”

Zeidman recalled that when Perry was Texas agriculture commissioner in the early 1990s, before he was considering national office, Perry used his office’s discretionary funds to subsidize the state’s Texas-Israel Exchange program after the legislature cut its share of the funding.

The Texas-Israel Exchange was a program jointly funded by Texas and the Israeli government focused on facilitating exchange and investment in Texas with Israeli technology.

“For him to cut into his own discretionary budget to fund something the state of Texas has cut, I think goes to show the depth of his belief in [Israel],” said Zeidman.

Perry’s efforts appear focused on revamping his national image after a disastrous performance in the 2012 GOP primaries. Perry, then considered the great Republican hope by many in the party, entered the race late but catapulted into the lead within days.

Just as fast as he peaked in early primary polls, a slew of disastrous debate performances led him to lose favorability and exit the race.

This time around, Perry looks to have changed the perception of him as a free-wheeling cowboy, into something close to an intellectual well studied in policy.

“He’s doing the things he’s doing now so that hopefully that [unsuccessful campaign] won’t be the case again,” Zeidman said.

dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com
JNS.org contributed to this story.

Islamic State Beheads Again

Steven Sotloff was covering the civil war in Syria and is said to have been kidnapped after entering northern Syria from Turkey on Aug. 4, 2013.

Steven Sotloff was covering the civil war in Syria and is said to have been kidnapped after entering northern Syria from Turkey on Aug. 4, 2013.

The Islamic State released a video Tuesday afternoon claiming to show the beheading of Jewish-American journalist Steven Sotloff, who would be the second American journalist beheaded by the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in two weeks.

The video, titled “A Second Message to America,” was released on online outlets. The video follows the Aug. 19 release of another video showing the beheading of American freelance journalist James Foley.

As of press time, the U.S. State Department was working to authenticate the video.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida’s 23rd congressional district where Sotloff’s parents live and advocated for efforts to free the journalist and other American hostages, said she was devastated by the news.

“Steven was a dedicated journalist who committed his professional life to keeping the rest of the world informed about conflict and human suffering in the Middle East,” she said in a statement. “Just last week, his mother Shirley released a video pleading to the group’s basic humanity to release Steven, an independent journalist seeking to cover a conflict that has killed or displaced thousands of innocent people.”

Sotloff was capture on Aug. 4, 2013 while covering the civil war in Syria.

The video is similar to the video showing Foley’s beheading, according to reports. At the end of that video, Sotloff, 31, was shown on his knees and a voice could be heard threatening President Barack Obama that Sotloff would be next.

Tuesday’s video showed a man with a British accent dressed in black and holding a large knife with Sotloff on his knees in a desert. Before his execution, Sotloff blames Obama and his Middle East policy for his impending demise, and the man clothed in black blames Obama for not listening to the group’s demands. The video shows the fighter cutting Sotloff’s throat, then cuts to a severed head and a bloody body, according to reports.

The video ends with threats to David Cawthorne Haines, a British hostage.

Sotloff reported from Syria, Egypt and Libya and was published in Time, the “World Affairs Journal” and Foreign Policy.

Sotloff grew up in Miami’s Pinecrest neighborhood, where his mother taught early childhood education at Temple Beth Am. A synagogue employee who answered the phone declined to comment. Phone calls to the Sotloff family’s home in Pinecrest were not answered.

Sotloff

Steven Sotloff in his 2002 yearbook photo.

From his sophomore year of high school through graduation in 2002, Sotloff attended Kimball Union Academy, a college preparatory school in Meriden, N.H. In a statement released Tuesday, the school credited Sotloff with revitalizing the student newspaper and said he was honored with the Lawton Award for Journalism at graduation. At Kimball Union, he served on the student council, was an admission tour guide, was a member of the Kimball Union Fire Brigade, played varsity football and rugby and performed in the musical “Cabaret,” according to the statement.

He kept in touch with Kimball Union and exchanged emails with head of school Mike Schafer in the spring of 2011 when he was on the ground in Libya covering the Arab Spring. He returned to campus in April 2012 to share his experience.

“Steven was dedicated to putting a human face on the sufferings and hardships in some of the world’s most challenging conflict zones,” the school’s statement said. “His work became a humanitarian mission that helped others gain a more accurate and realistic global perspective on issues in the Middle East.”

Plans to honor Sotloff will be announced at a later date, the statement said.

He attended the University of Central Florida from 2002 to 2004, majoring in journalism, and left before earning a degree.

“Our UCF family mourns Steven’s death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outrage at this despicable and unjustifiable act,” said UCF President John C. Hitt.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement underscoring the seriousness of the threat from the Islamic State in light of Sotloff’s reported beheading.

“Sadly, ISIS is bringing this barbarity across the region — beheading and crucifying those who don’t share their dark ideology. The threat from this group seems to grow by the day,” he said. “Working with key allies, the United States needs to be acting urgently to arm the Kurds on the ground who are fighting them and targeting ISIS from the air with drone strikes.”

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs also sent his thoughts and prayers to the Sotloff family and demanded action on ISIS.

“This murder, and that of fellow journalist James Foley less than a month ago, as well as the brutal treatment of those who live in areas controlled by ISIS, demands that the international community join not just in condemnation of ISIS but also in action to ensure this terror group is defeated,” he said in a statement. “If left unchecked, the threat ISIS poses to people in the Middle East and worldwide will only grow.”

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com