Annapolis Approves New Eruv

Annapolis Eruv Vice President David Cohen (left) and Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides dedicate the new Annapolis Eruv. (Provided)

Annapolis Eruv Vice President David Cohen (left) and Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides dedicate the new Annapolis Eruv. (Provided)

For Annapolis, it is the beginning of an eruv.

On Thursday, July 17, Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides held an official dedication ceremony to authorize the Maryland state capital’s new eruv around the city.

Pantelides signed the official proclamation at City Hall in the City Council chambers in the presence of Annapolis Eruv President and Kneseth Israel Rabbi Moshe Weisblum, Eruv Vice President David Cohen and Kneseth Israel President David Sliom. The new eruv, which is affiliated with Annapolis’ first synagogue, Kneseth Israel, aims to attract more Jews to the state capital.

“I had the pleasure of welcoming the president of the Eruv of Annapolis to City Hall,” Pantelides said in a statement. “As per Jewish tradition, they presented me with a silver dollar and a proclamation in accordance with Torah observant Jewish law, which constitutes payment in full for the rental rights of the domain within eruv district.”

An eruv is an enclosed area within a city or town that allows observant Jews to carry certain objects outside their homes on holy days. Some of these objects include strollers, walkers, canes, tissues and medicines. Using telephone poles and wires from BGE and Verizon, the new eruv creates a physical boundary around the designated area that makes it easier for Annapolis Jews to walk to synagogue.

David Cohen, vice president of the Eruv of Annapolis, presented a map marking the official boundaries of the eruv. Bordering Forest Drive, Tyler Avenue, Primrose Road and Spa Road, the eruv encompasses a radius of a few miles and took nearly three years to create. From receiving company utility permits to construction, the final piece of the puzzle is symbolically purchasing the land from a highly ranked city official.

“Today is a historical day for Judaism in Annapolis,” Cohen said at the ceremony. “The Annapolis Jewish community dates back over a century … The presence or absence of an eruv affects the lives of people with limited mobility and people taking care of the lives of children. The main incentive for starting the eruv project was actually to push our children to synagogue on a Saturday. Today, we are purchasing the land from the mayor for a bargain, one silver dollar.”

Weisblum believes the eruv will open new doors for the Kneseth Israel Congregation.

“I personally have been dreaming about the eruv for 12 years,” Weisblum said. “Like Martin Luther King, I have a dream. The area is connected to the synagogue and [is] part of the heart of Annapolis. Our synagogue is 108 years old, so this is big news for us.”

With hopes of increasing the framework even further, both Cohen and Weisblum anticipate larger congregations at Kneseth Israel due to the new eruv.

“After three years, I am proud to say we have completed the eruv of Annapolis,” Cohen said. “In the near future, we hope to expand the eruv to cover a larger area of Annapolis.”

The eruv is dedicated to David Cohen’s sister-in-law, Joelle Benchmuel, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 32, and the three Yeshiva boys, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, who were recently murdered in Israel.

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

Ground Incursion Hits Home

Jordan Low, a 2013 Beth Tfiloh graduate, was hospitalized for smoke  inhalation after helping his unit escape a burning building in Gaza.

Jordan Low, a 2013 Beth Tfiloh graduate, was hospitalized for smoke inhalation after helping his unit escape a burning building in Gaza.

The human cost of Israel’s ground incursion in the Gaza Strip hit close to home in the United States this week, with a Beth Tfiloh graduate hospitalized and Jewish communities in Los Angeles and South Texas losing members in the fighting.

Among the wounded was Baltimore native Jordan Low, a 2013 graduate of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, who was hospitalized for smoke inhalation after helping his company escape from a burning building.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, 25 soldiers have been killed since July 17 as of publication. On Monday morning, five IDF soldiers were in serious or critical condition, 15 were in stable condition, and 40 were seeking treatment for injuries, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The Palestinian death toll had reached 565 by press time Monday since the launch of Operation Protective Edge, according to Gaza health officials.

In Baltimore, the Beth Tfiloh community has rallied behind Low with phone calls, prayers and volunteers to visit him, according to Zipora Schorr, the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s director of education.

“He was quite the hero according to his dad,” Schorr said. “Until everyone escaped from this burning building that was hit by Hamas, he held the ladder until every single guy got out safely, which is why he was so affected by the fumes.”

Jeffrey Low, Jordan’s father, was flying out to see Jordan with his younger son, Josh, 15, on Monday evening. Low spoke to his son’s doctor Monday morning, who said his blood pressure and other health indicators were good.

Jordan Low’s company, Golani Brigade’s Unit 51, was searching for arms on the second story of a Hamas building in Northern Gaza when Hamas fired two rockets at the building and it burst into flames, Low said. All 15 soldiers, four of whom received serious injuries, were airlifted to a Tel Aviv hospital, he said.

“Jordan going into the IDF … I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Low said. “He’s in Israel and doesn’t have to be there. Being a chayal boded [lone soldier] is highly coveted, and I think those things show the kind of young man Jordan is.”

Two American soldiers and members of the Golani Brigade, Max Steinberg, 24, of Beersheba and Los Angeles, and Sean Carmeli, 21, of Raanana and South Padre Island, Texas, were killed Sunday. They were among 13 Israeli soldiers killed in heavy fighting in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood.

Israel’s stated objectives in the ground invasion are to bring a sustained cessation to missile fire from Gaza and to root out the infrastructure that Hamas has used to build up its weapons cache.

“Operation Protective Edge will continue until it reaches its goal,” read a July 17 statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that announced the invasion, “restoring quiet to Israel’s citizens for a prolonged period, while inflicting a significant blow to the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.”

The Israeli ground invasion of Gaza — its first since 2009 — aims to destroy Hamas’ underground weapons stores and its network of tunnels in Gaza, which it uses to transport arms and personnel. The invasion started after a week and a half of Hamas missiles and Israeli airstrikes, along with failed efforts to reach a cease-fire.

President Obama told Secretary of State John Kerry to push for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in the Gaza Strip.

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas,” Obama said Monday in a brief news appearance as Kerry headed to Egypt to attempt to broker a cease-fire.

“And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama said he wanted a return to the truce with Hamas brokered in November 2012, but Hamas has rejected such a return. Hamas has added demands including internationally monitored border crossings, prisoner releases and Israel staying out of Hamas-Palestinian Authority unity talks.

On Monday, Israeli troops killed 10 terrorists who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from northern Gaza.

The terrorists emerged from the tunnel Monday morning into Southern Israel between two kibbutzes near the border with Gaza, the IDF reported. The IDF said its radar captured the infiltration.

One cell of infiltrators was struck by Israeli airstrikes, the IDF said, and a second cell was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops.

Residents of the two kibbutzes, Erez and Nir Am, and some surrounding southern Israeli towns were ordered to remain in their homes with the doors locked for several hours on Monday morning as the IDF searched for more possible infiltrators.

JTA contributed to this report.

Israel Surprises in World Championship Debut

Team Israel wrapped up a strong World Lacrosse Championship debut late last week with a seventh-place finish.
The team clinched the seventh spot with a 15-10 win over Japan on Friday, July 18. After falling behind 5-4 at halftime, Israel stormed back in the second half of its final match of the championships. Ari Sussman, who was the tournament’s second-highest scorer, scored a game-high five goals against Japan, and goalie Henry Altschuler played almost three quarters and turned back nine shots for the win.
The Israeli team finished the tournament atop its division with a 6-2 overall record.

Baltimore Stands with Israel

090613_Rabbi_Moshe_Hauer

Rabbi Moshe Hauer

The events unfolding in Israel are geographically far from Maryland, but Jewish Baltimore will show

its solidarity and support for the Jewish state through prayer, gatherings and messages sent directly to the soldiers taking part in Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli embassy representatives, community leaders and politicians will be on hand Monday, July 21 at 7 p.m. for a Gathering of Solidarity to be held at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. The event has been organized to create an opportunity for the Baltimore community to demonstrate its support for Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.

The program will feature guest speakers, including Oren Marmorstein, counselor for public affairs and national coordinator of academic affairs at the Israeli Embassy, and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and will also include the recitation of tehillim with
of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation. In addition, Amian Kelemer, whose daughter recently completed service with the Israel Defense Forces, will speak from her perspective as the parent of an Israeli soldier.

The Gathering of Solidarity is sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and co-sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Israel Coalition. For additional information, call the Baltimore Jewish Council at 410-542-4850 or go to its website at baltjc.org/standwithisrael.

Hauer has also put a call out to all Jewish camp directors asking that campers help design small notes or cards that will be included in care packages to be delivered to soldiers. He extended his request to anybody in the community who would like to create and send a note of solidarity to Israeli troops.

Hauer will be traveling to Israel next week and asks that the cards and letters be sent or dropped off by Monday at 5 p.m. to the office of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion at 6602 Park Heights Ave.

Agudath Israel of America is asking that all Jews pray for the safety of the Israeli soldiers and the citizenry of Israel, and “to undertake meaningful acts of kindness, charity, Torah-study and special observances to help merit Divine protection of our brothers and sisters in [Israel], on the front lines and everywhere else.”

Recently reopened is the Shmira Project, an organization that enables people to “adopt” one or more soldiers by doing a specific mitzvah in their honor and praying for their protection. Shmira means “guarding” or “protecting” in Hebrew.

“Any mitzvah that you do on behalf of a soldier truly makes a difference, to the soldier and to Jewish unity,” states the Center for Jewish Education’s website. “Write your soldier’s name out and post it where you’ll see it … near the Shabbat candles, on the refrigerator, in your car, in your phone. Then when you are going to do something positive in the world, stop and think of your soldier and include him or her in your mitzvah.”

For more information about the Shmira Project, go to shmiraproject.com or text 240-393-4836.

Senators Pledge Support for Israel In Wake of Ground Operation

050214_israel-dayHours after the Israel Defense Forces began their ground operation in the Gaza Strip on July 17, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke on the Senate floor to express their support of Israel and its operation, while denouncing the Palestinian Authority’s unity government and the moral equivalency drawn by those critical of Israel’s actions.

Graham noted that moments before his speech, the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 498) expressing the Senate’s opinion that Israel has the right to defend itself in the face of rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists, calling for Hamas to end the attacks and calling on the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Palestinian unity government and condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israel. The resolution also sailed through the Senate Foreign Relations committee Wednesday without objection or amendment.

The senator called the resolution symbolic, being passed on the day that Israel began its ground operation.

“The Senate does not see a moral equivalency here,” said Graham. “As Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu said, Israel uses missiles — helped in collaboration with the United States to produce the technology called Iron Dome — to defend civilians. Hamas uses civilians to cover their missile program. Making human shields of their own people. That says really all you need to know.”

Graham also gave a stern warning to the Palestinian people about the prospects of peace if they do not dissolve the unity government and condemn Hamas’ actions.

“To the Palestinians who have formed a unity government: you need to break away from Hamas,” he said. “There will never be peace until you marginalize the terrorist organization called Hamas, until you reject what they stand for and the way they have behaved.”

“How can you obtain peace when one of the members of the Palestinian government, Hamas, has fired thousands of rockets, caring less where they fall?” continued Graham. “They could care less if it falls on a kindergarten or a military base. They just care to kill Israelis.”

After leaving the Senate floor, Graham told Washington Jewish Week that he was surprised it has taken Israel so long to begin a ground operation when asked to reflect on the news.

“They’ve done everything they could to de-escalate this but Hamas is a terrorist organization that has fired thousands of rockets, and they could care less where they land. Eventually you have to do this,” he said. “You can only do so much from the air, you’ve got to go take ground back from the enemy. This is what the Middle East is like, and those who are pushing Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory without security being in place hope you’ve learned the lesson from Gaza.”

Rubio followed Graham on the floor, covering everything from the relationship between the United States and Israel to moral equivalency being drawn between Israel and Hamas by critics and the administration’s policies — which he believes are driving a wedge between the two allies. These policies include the failed U.S.-brokered Israel-Palestine peace talks and the Iran nuclear negotiations.

“Now as American policymakers, you ask, ‘What is our interest in this?’ ” Rubio said. “And I think it begins with a unique relationship that exists between the United States and Israel. It is the only vibrant democracy in that part of the world. Its alliance to the United States is unquestionable not just in international forums, but all over this planet. Israel is consistently on America’s side, time and again, in every one of our challenges.”

That, Rubio said, was the political reason, whereas there is also a moral reason, which is the “right of the Jewish people to have a country that they can live in peacefully” and that Jews will never again face a time where they have nowhere to go.

While saying that he did not want to insert partisanship into the issue, Rubio took a jab at the Obama Administration for, as he later told Washington Jewish Week, “putting daylight” between the United States and Israel in the perception of some in the region.

“I am concerned about the position this administration is taking,” said Rubio. “I was concerned about the amount of pressure that the secretary of state was placing on the Israelis to enter into a negotiation — a negotiation with the Palestinian Authority that didn’t have the authority or the power to reach a peace agreement that they could possibly enforce, much less deliver on.”

“I think it’s safe to say that the relationship between the Israeli government has never been worse toward an American president for more than two decades,” said Rubio.

Following his speech, Rubio added that he believes Israel should do whatever is necessary to “convince Hamas that the price they pay is too high for what they’re conducting or to wipe out their capability to hit Israel” and that he believes Israel will perform the operation with “great restraint” as “everything Israel does.”

The passing of the resolution — and the senators’ remarks — came only hours after the Israeli prime minister gave the go-ahead to send ground troops into Gaza after a 10-day air operation failed to diminish the Hamas rocket barrage. Another stated objective, according to a press release from the prime minister’s office, is to destroy smuggling tunnels, one of which was used earlier in the day by 13 Hamas militants to enter Israel.

Earlier Thursday, prior to the ground operation, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also addressed Congress’ support for Israel during his weekly press conference.

“I think we must send a clear, unified and public message,” Boehner said. “Israel is our friend, and Israel’s enemies are our enemies.”

JNS.org contributed to this story.

Witnesses To Conflict

(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM — On June 29, 27 Jewish teenagers from Baltimore participated in a team-building exercise, working together to build rafts and then sailing them across the Sea of Galilee. It was a day of sun and sea, cooperation and fun. But as the teens sailed across the calm waters, they couldn’t help but notice the large pictures of boys just about their own age plastered across billboards along with the campaign slogan “Bring Back Our Boys.”

The Baltimore teens “knew” the Israeli teens well. They knew that Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were kidnapped not long before the Baltimore Zionist District Israel teen tour set out for the Jewish state, and they saw for themselves the way Israelis and the worldwide Jewish community rallied together in support of the boys’ families and of the Israel Defense Forces troops searching for them.

The group of teens arrived in Israel several days prior and had already visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum and the Mount Herzl national military cemetery in Jerusalem. They hiked the Golan Heights. They toured the Old City of Jerusalem and prayed at the Western Wall. And all within the context of continued reports of the search for the boys.

Nothing could have prepared them for the news they received the following evening. After a full day of hiking and touring the Tiberius area, the teens were somberly gathered by their group leaders and informed that the bodies of Frenkel, Shaar and Yifrah had been found, murdered by suspected Hamas terrorists. Since that night, the number of rockets fired into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has increased to more than 100 a day; the IDF responded last week by launching Operation Protective Edge, amassing troops at the Gaza border and dispatching airstrikes against targets within that Palestinian territory.

The Baltimore teens’ first (and, as of this report, only) experience with a rocket attack was on Saturday, July 5. They were spending the weekend at the Beit Kama kibbutz in southern Israel, lounging around outside in a field, when an air raid siren sounded. Reassured by the kibbutzniks, who had been through this before, the teens were herded into a bomb shelter, where they continued chatting — albeit in more hushed tones —with their peers.

“I wouldn’t say it’s fear, so much as a rational nervousness,” said 15-year-old Jacob Berman of Salisbury, when asked whether the BZD teens had expressed fear regarding their safety. No participants expressed a desire to cut the trip short and return to the safety of the United States, and, perhaps more surprisingly, neither have any of their parents.

When the matzav or “situation,” which is what the climate of not-quite-war is called in Israel, broke out, there was some “uneasiness. There were some kids who were nervous,” said Berman. Counselors sat down with the participants, who had never before been to Israel, to assess exactly how much they knew about the crisis and fill in the gaps, then the teens wrote letters to their parents to let them know what was happening and how they were doing.

Staying informed apparently helped the teens remain calm, as did the knowledge that their parents, the program’s staff and Israel’s security forces were doing everything in their power to keep them safe. But more than their concern for safety, said participants, they felt for the people who call Israel their home.

Far from Home

Israeli soldiers patrol near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. (Gilad Kavalerchik/Polaris/Newscom)

Israeli soldiers patrol near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
(Gilad Kavalerchik/Polaris/Newscom)

Julie August of Pikesville can’t help but get choked up when talking about her son, Josh. A soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, Josh, 20, will be transferred from his usual post in the northern part of Israel to a base near Gaza in the next day or two. The Augusts are one of many families from Jewish Baltimore with children serving in the Israeli army. Some like Josh, a Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate, were already on active duty, while others are among the 40,000 reservists called up to serve as part of Operation Protective Edge.

“All the fighters, especially the lone soldiers [who do not have parents or siblings in the country] are showing incredible courage,” said August, who grew up in Israel and “understands and appreciates the desire to serve.”

But that doesn’t mean she isn’t worried.

“I’m fluent in Hebrew so I’ve been reading all the newspapers,” she said. And in recent days, the news from Israel has not been good.

Vito and Gail Simone of Summit Park don’t know yet whether their son, Alex, will be deployed. Vito Simone said Alex had recently been in Baltimore for a two-week visit. “We just took him to the airport, and he just returned to Tel Aviv where he lives,” he said of the 26-year-old, also a Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate, who immigrated to Israel three years ago.

“He has always been passionate about Israel and his Jewish identity. We are very proud and sometimes anxious,” he admitted. “Fortunately, we don’t have iPhones so we’re not getting red alerts on our phones all the time to drive us crazy.”

Simone said he has been disappointed by what he sees as local politicians’ lack of condemnation for Hamas and the absence of strong support for families like his own who have children serving in the IDF.

“I would like to see elected officials, especially those who are Jewish,  come forward and really encourage people to support Israel and our young people there,” explained the father. “There is a strong constituency of families in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland with children who are serving. The silence has been shameful.”

In contrast, he pointed out, he and his family have been grateful for the many friends and relatives who have contacted them to provide support and reassurance.

“They have even tried to thank us for his service,” said Simone. “I don’t know if I can take the credit. These kids are so excited to be part of the
effort to defend Israel.”

Penina Eilberg and her family, formerly of Baltimore, learned that their oldest son, Pesach, 25, once a student at Talmudic Academy and Yeshivat Ram Bam, would be deployed while they were at a commemorative ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the family’s move to Israel. Despite her concern for her son and the fact that she has experienced violence and terror attacks such as rocks thrown into car windows, drive-by shootings and Molotov cocktails close to her home in the Nof Zion neighborhood near Jerusalem, Eilberg denied having any regrets about the decision to make aliyah.

“This is our land, our place and we have to make sure we have a safe place to live,” she said. “That’s not to say I’m not nervous, but the more of us who are here the better.”

Pesach Eilberg’s grandmother, Rachel Eilberg, who still lives in Pikesville, admitted she was tense.

“When I’m tense, I usually run out and buy myself ice cream, and I’ve been doing that a lot. But look, we all have our duties. I’ll be back in Israel in September for a granddaughter’s wedding, and I’ll hope for peace and quiet,” she said.

Rabbi Menachem Goldberger of Congregation Tferes Yisroel said that many of the families who were members of his congregation have made aliyah in recent years. Therefore, he knows many young people who are now active duty soldiers and reservists. Among the congregants who will be serving are Noam Orman, Dani and Aryeh Eastman and Avi Schamroth.

“We feel a number of things [about congregants serving in the IDF],” said Goldberger. “[We feel] pride in their courage and devotion to the Jewish people and also concern since they are out there in harm’s way. We have been saying extra prayers for them during services and individually. My wife has a tehillim group and they have been meeting frequently.”

Goldberger said that although he has not spoken directly with the young men, he has been in contact with their families through email.

“I just hope God will watch over the Jewish people and that the Israeli government will have the determi-nation to finish this so we do not have to live with this way any longer,” he added.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Comfortable with Questioning

Jeffrey Kahn, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, works to create policy that helps people navigate through difficult decisions in the evolving medical and public health fields. (Melissa Gerr)

Jeffrey Kahn, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, works to create policy that helps people navigate through difficult decisions in the evolving medical and public health fields. (Melissa Gerr)

As a pre-med student, an aversion to hospitals turned out to be one of the best things for Jeffrey Kahn’s career.

During his undergraduate work in medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kahn was advised to gain hospital experience, so he took a job drawing blood from pre-operative patients.

“I really hated going into people’s hospital rooms and smelling the sickness and touching people who were ill,” he recalled. But Kahn thought he could get beyond those feelings because he remained passionate and committed to study in the field of medicine.

Then he began a required course called Medicine, Law and Society that turned out to be a divining rod for him.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is all the interesting stuff, but it doesn’t smell bad, and there’s no blood,’” he said. An adviser explained it was bioethics he was interested in and directed Kahn to the only place in the country with an academic focus on bioethics at the time, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Interdisciplinary in nature, bioethics as an academic field has only been around since the 1970s. It encompasses medical ethics but also includes questions surrounding biomedical research and the application of leading medical or other biological technologies. The field has also evolved to include public health concerns such as global justice in relation to food availability and fair access to medical treatments.

Kahn entered the Kennedy Institute after obtaining his undergraduate degree in microbiology at UCLA. It was necessary to study bioethics within another context, and in this case it was through the philosophy department. With this new direction Kahn remembered that his life was slightly upended, but he was excited about it.

“A nice Jewish boy from the San Fernando Valley,” Kahn said, laughing, “went to a Jesuit institution, switched from hard science to philosophy and relocated from the West Coast to East Coast.

“Everything just got turned upside down,” he added, “but it was new and fresh and different in a great way.”

Now Kahn holds a Ph.D. in philosophy/bioethics from the Kennedy Institute and a M.P.H. in health policy from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Kahn has held faculty positions at the Department of Medical Humanities at East Carolina University School of Medicine; the Center for the Study of Medical Bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin; the Department of Medicine and also the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota; the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University; and since 2011, Kahn is the Robert Henry Levi and Ryda Hecht Levi professor of bioethics and public policy and the deputy director for policy and administration at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Kahn, and his more than 30 colleagues, address a wide range of topics such as “bedside” bioethics issues, where they help health care teams, families and patients understand options and make decisions about sustaining or withholding treatment or even navigating access to expensive therapies; and they are also involved in broader-reaching ethics such as global food-access policies and ethics of working with human and animal research subjects. The challenges evolve as quickly as the medical field evolves, so currently the ethical questions involving synthetic biology are also on their docket.

During his time at the University of Minnesota, Kahn was plunged into a highly publicized case. Lisa and Jack Nash gave birth in 1994 to a baby girl, Molly, with Fanconi anemia, a genetic disease that can have many ill effects and at its worst can result in leukemia by age 6 or 7. Molly’s chances of survival required either a bone marrow donor or an umbilical cord blood donor. The couple became pregnant again (via in vitro fertilization) and used embryonic testing to ensure choosing an embryo that didn’t have same disease and was a genetic match to the first child in order to be a donor.

Kahn was made aware of the situation when it was well underway, and he said it raised a lot of ethical questions such as, did they create a child to save their daughter? The couple had planned to have more children and chose to use genetic testing to ensure the next child did not carry the same disease and at the same time they could possibly save their first child’s life. But if the cord blood donation didn’t work for Molly, which would be confirmed within the first three months, then it would be necessary to put the infant under anesthesia and remove bone marrow from its hip with a very large needle.

“The parents said absolutely we would do that,” recalled Kahn.

Empowering Evening

071814_brem

Dr. Rachel Brem (Provided)

A torrential downpour on July 8 did not discourage dozens of women from turning out for Dessert and Brem, an event held at Congregation Ohr Simcha that was billed as an evening of education and empowerment for women.

Chaired by Danielle Storch and Esther Sara Weiner and sponsored by the Chesed Fund with co-sponsors the Mikvah of Baltimore, the Jewish Caring Network, Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Bnos Yisroel of Baltimore and Bikur Cholim of Baltimore, the program also served as a fundraiser for the Brem Foundation to defeat breast cancer.

The story of the Brem Foundation’s founding dates to 2004. During a routine medical appointment, Dr. Rachel Brem, a radiologist and breast cancer researcher who was formerly director of imaging at Johns Hopkins Medicine and is now director of the Breast Imaging and Interventional Center at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., asked longtime patient Sue Apple for advice.

“I have a problem,” Apple recalled Brem telling her.

Brem explained that she needed to purchase a new piece of medical equipment that would help her identify breast cancers not easily found by other technologies. Apple, who is passionate about the cause and Brem’s commitment, got to work. Before long, she had managed to raise the $40,000 needed to buy the machine and had also succeeded in getting its cost reduced by half.

But Apple and Brem didn’t stop there. Once the latest technology was available, they were faced with an unfortunate reality. Many of the women who could benefit from the technology were unable to access it because of financial constraints.

In 2005, they started the Brem Foundation, a volunteer-run nonprofit organization. The foundation ensures that Washington-area women who are uninsured or underinsured are able to receive diagnostic services and also funds the Mammovan — a mobile mammography unit from GW that provides free mammograms to women who meet the financial guidelines. In addition, the Brem Foundation trains breast radiologists in the most advanced radiology treatments and in Brem’s patient-centered style of medical care through its Hayes-Jennings Fellowships.

The Brem Foundation also helps to support physicians’ research into advanced technologies for accurate diagnosis of breast cancer, including screening for high-risk patients using automated whole-breast ultrasound for women with dense breast tissue and molecular imaging to detect breast cancers that might not otherwise be identified.

Storch said she was inspired to bring Brem to Baltimore after hearing from two friends who had found lumps in their breasts.

“I had to do something to help,” she said.

“Cancer Detective” Dr. Rachel Brem from brem foundation on Vimeo.

Brem, a Baltimore native, was enthusiastic about coming to her hometown to share her expertise. In her presentation, Brem, a breast cancer survivor and daughter of a breast cancer survivor, stressed that women must be their own advocates. She also discredited recent reports that disputed the value of mammograms.

“Mammograms save lives,” she told the audience repeatedly. “They reduce deaths from breast cancer by 15 to 33 percent. After 40, get your mammogram every year.”

And while she acknowleged that Ashkenazi Jewish women are more likely than others to carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, mutations that increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by 50 to 85 percent, she also cautioned that 75 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease. Brem advised women to make sure that the person who reads their mammograms is highly experienced.

“Not all mammogram readings are the same. There is research showing that people who do something more often do it better,” she said. “You can ask who is reading your mammogram and demand that it be the most experienced person on staff.”

Brem said that 40 percent of women have dense breasts, which makes breast cancer more likely and also more difficult to detect. Mammograms, she noted, are the only way to find out if one has dense breasts.

“Maryland is one of 18 states that requires radiologists to inform women if a mammogram shows dense breasts,” she said.

She urged women with dense breasts to seek additional screenings such as 3D ultrasounds or breast MRIs.

“If you need a biopsy and your doctor’s office says they can’t do it for two weeks, you should walk out,” she advised. “We don’t believe in sleepless nights. At GW, we do the vast number of biopsies the same day as an abnormality is found. … Never go to surgery for a diagnosis. It should be a minimally invasive needle biopsy. It’s better and faster than surgery.”

Storch plans to follow up the July 8 event with a larger program this fall.

For more information, visit bremfoundation.org.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Emergency Israel Funds Launched

In light of the violence taking place in Israel, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore has assured members of the Jewish community that they are closely monitoring the events taking place there.

In partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, The Associated reported they are providing “immediate and necessary support and resources, including trauma relief for those at risk and mobilization for vulnerable populations to safer environments.”

The Associated encourages members of the community to lend their support in a variety of ways: by making a contribution to its Israel Emergency Relief Campaign; by visiting associated.org to keep abreast of the newest information; by following The Associated on Facebook and Twitter; by messaging friends and family in Ashkelon on the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Facebook page; or by sending a card to the children of Ashkelon by emailing Amalia Phillips at the Macks Center for Education.

The Associated and its partners are not the only Jewish organizations stepping up to support Israel. The National Council of Jewish Women has initiated an emergency fundraising drive to support the EDEN Association for at-risk teenage girls, an organization it has long supported through its Israel Granting Program.

NCJW announced it has raised more than $10,000 in gifts in less than 24 hours for EDEN, which is located just a mile-and-a-half from the Gaza Strip, where many of the most serious attacks have taken place.

“Because the girls of EDEN come from high-risk home environments, returning to their families at this time is not an option,” said NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman. “NCJW is grateful that when the need is greatest, once again our supporters come through quickly and generously with critical funds to ensure that these young girls can be moved to safety.”

The public can support EDEN by donating through NCJW’s website.

“Life is complicated in this part of the world, but the services we fund go on because they must,” said Michael Friedman, senior vice president of The Associated’s philanthropic planning and services department, who is in Israel on the JFNA campaign chairs and directors mission. “For those of us visiting, this is nothing like our normal routine. Unfortunately for the citizens of Israel, sirens and shelters are all too familiar.”