Luv 2 Learn Festival Planned at Chizuk Amuno

Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville will present Luv 2 Learn, an afternoon of learning for members and nonmembers ages 14 and up on Sunday, May 18 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The event, which includes 28 different half-hour workshops taught by members of the synagogue community from Jewish topics such as “Ten Yiddish Words You Should Know,” “In My Zafta’s Kitchen: An Israeli-American Educator and Food Blogger Shares Her Secrets” and “On the Front Lines in the Yom Kippur War” to secular topics such as “Global Climate Change and the World to Come,” “Reply All … And Other Ways to Tank Your Career,” and “You Can Dance at Any Age!” offers something for everyone. Participants may attend up to three workshops of their choosing.

Chaired by Howard Cohen and Marsha Manekin and staffed by Rabbi Paul D. Schneider, director of congregational life at Chizuk Amuno, the event commences with a wine-and-cheese reception, where workshop-goers can enjoy more conversation.

“We wanted a day of learning that would appeal to a wide array of interests and ages — something that would be lots of fun and would bring our community together,” said Schneider. “Within our community, we have a wealth of resources — professionals, hobbyists and knowledgeable individuals. We called on them to bring their passions to our event.”

For more information and to register, visit chizukamuno.org.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Curfew Changes One Step Closer

(istockphoto.com/BrianAJackson )

(istockphoto.com/BrianAJackson )

Some young Baltimoreans on the street after 9 p.m. could soon find themselves being picked up by police.

The Baltimore City Council approved a curfew on Monday that would require all children younger than the age of 14 to be inside by 9 p.m. For teens ages 14 to 16, that time is 10 p.m. on school nights; 11 p.m. any other night. Additionally, the fine parents of children found to be out past curfew face would be increased from a possible maximum of $300 to $500, avoidable by attending family counselling sessions.

“It’s just a situation where I think the children’s safety is at risk,” said Councilwoman Rochelle Spector, who in September, when the issue was first raised, expressed doubts about the effectiveness of a tighter curfew but voted in favor of the changed curfew earlier this week. “These kids are falling through the cracks and this is a way of hopefully getting them the support system that they need. So for me it’s a no-brainer.”

Kids and teens picked up by police would be transported to the city’s curfew center on East North Avenue where they could receive a boxed meal while they wait to be reunited with a parent or guardian.

While proponents of the bill have said that it is a good way to help keep Baltimore youths safe, the ACLU launched a campaign in opposition to the bill, saying the law would worsen racial disparities. It compared the effect of the curfew to house arrest and calling for citizens to sign a petition against the law on the organization’s Twitter page.

At the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, vice president Phil Miller and other officials are monitoring the progress of the bill.

“We’re a neighborhood JCC,” said Miller, adding that it is not unusual to see a seventh- or eighth-grader at the center near the 9 o’clock hour. Exemptions would be made for children and teens traveling with a parent, returning from a job or coming to or from a religious, recreational or school activity, but the JCC is considering what kinds of changes the new curfew could have on its programming, some of which includes night activities for teens.

Under the current curfew, all children 16 or younger must be indoors by 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on other nights. The proposed curfew requires one more vote before it is sent to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for approval.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

What to Do With a Jewish Racist?

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches a Clippers game with V. Stiviano.  (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, courtesy of JTA News and Features)

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches a Clippers game with
V. Stiviano.
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, courtesy of JTA News and Features)

Following the fallout from the recording of racist comments by the Jewish owner of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers, Jewish organizations, both local and national, moved quickly to take the focus off his ethnicity and remind the country of the Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement.

Meanwhile, elements of the Jewish community in Southern California, including a number of organizations Sterling donated to, are worried that focus on Sterling’s Jewishness has been overplayed.

“I’m troubled by the fact that the Jewish community and the Jewish press seem to be making Donald Sterling more Jewish and more of a Jewish leader than he actually is,” said Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “I think it’s dangerous for us to just take someone who’s Jewish and connect them to the Jewish community. In fact, nothing about Donald Sterling’s involvement would make you think that he’s involved in the Jewish community.”

Sanderson said that Sterling’s foundation would make occasional gifts of $10,000 to groups attached to the L.A. Jewish community “to make himself look like a philanthropist” but was uninvolved. Besides donating to the Jewish Federation, Sterling also gave to the Jewish Vocational Service, the Museum of the Holocaust, the Creative Arts Temple, the Temple of the Arts, Beit T’Shuvah, and, ironically, the Museum of Tolerance, according to the Forward.

Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance said in a statement that they fully support NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s actions against Sterling — a lifetime ban and fine of $2.5 million. Silver also urged the NBA’s board of governors to find a way to force Sterling to sell the team.

The Wiesenthal Center and Mus-eum of Tolerance no longer will accept funds from the Donald Sterling Foundation, the statement said. A previous gift of $30,000 “will not be returned because all funds were used for programming that help fight and prevent the very racism and hate that was expressed in Mr. Sterling’s tape.”

The outrage followed a leak of a taped phone call between Sterling and his mistress, V. Stiviano.

In it, Sterling told Stiviano, who is of African-American and Hispanic heritage, not to bring “black people” to his games — specifically referring to Instagram pictures of Stiviano with basketball legend Magic Johnson.

Stiviano can be heard on the recording challenging Sterling’s racism by comparing his hatred of African-Americans with hatred of Jews.

“The white Jews, there’s white Jews and black Jews, do you understand?” Sterling explained to Stiviano about Jews in Israel.

“And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?” asked Stiviano.

“A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent,” Sterling answered.

In addition to the local Jewish community, Sterling’s comments outraged a number of national Jewish organizations, which felt compelled to decry him publicly.

“The Jewish people have a long history of fighting racism, and we are deeply disturbed by the reprehensible statements attributed to Donald Sterling,” the Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement. ” There is no place for racism or bigotry in America today and certainly not in Jewish life.”

With the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 next month and this year the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision striking down segregation in public schools, Sterling’s comments contradict a longstanding American Jewish tradition to support civil rights.

Jews played a large role in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Jews, including prominent rabbis both from the North and the South, participated in marches, sit-ins and freedom rides. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel demonstrated alongside Martin Luther King.

According to Larry Brooks, editor and publisher of Southern Jewish Life Magazine, Jews made up the largest proportion of the white activists arriving from the North to participate in the civil rights movement — causing resentment from Southerners who would direct their anger against the local Jewish community.

But years before the freedom riders came South, white supremacists were targeting the Jewish community. The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta, known as The Temple, was bombed in 1958. Its rabbi was an outspoken supporter of African-American rights. That same year, 54 sticks of dynamite were found near Temple Beth-El in Birmingham, Ala. Wet fuses prevented the detonation. In 1960, Congregation Beth Israel in Gadsden, Ala., was firebombed during Friday night services.

During the Freedom Summer of 1964, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — two Jewish activists working in Mississippi — were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, an event and its aftermath dramatized in the film “Mississippi Burning.”

The Anti-Defamation League, established because of anti-Semitism in the South, denounced Sterling’s statements and agreed with the commissioner’s punishment. But the ADL had a different reaction when, just a week prior to the revelations about Sterling, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was recorded openly saying that he believes that “Negroes” had it better as slaves than in the government-dependent society he says exists today.

Bundy was taking a stand against the federal Bureau of Land Management and lost much of his support after the racist comment. Unlike with Sterling, the ADL took no position against Bundy. Did the group placed Sterling under more of a microscope because he is Jewish? The ADL says no.

“We responded with a formal statement on the racist comments of Donald Sterling because this was a national and international story involving the owner of a major sports franchise whose coach and many of his players are African-American,” the ADL said in a statement to the Washington Jewish Week.

“Cliven Bundy’s racist remarks,” said the statement, “coming from an individual who was unknown to the public until recently, were so over the top, offensive and outrageous and there was enough of a public outcry that we did not feel the need to weigh in at the time with a written statement.”

What is the Presidents’ Conference?

President Barack Obama meets with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the White House in 2011.    (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the White House in 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last week’s vote against admitting the dovish pro-Israel group J Street into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations may not have surprised many. J Street, with its adamant call for a two-state solution and its criticism of the Israeli government’s settlement policy, puts it to the left of most of the 50 organizations that constitute the Conference of Presidents.

But while J Street is well known in the organized Jewish world — people either love it or hate it — the identity of the group that rejected it is less understood. So even though the vote settled the question of J Street, for now at least, it raised two others: What is the Conference of Presidents, and what does it do?

“The Conference serves as the coordinating body for major American Jewish organizations,” the New York-based organization offers online, “speaking and acting on the basis of consensus, to maximize resources of the Jewish community as an effective advocate of the community.”

That’s the New York-based organization’s description of itself. The Presidents’ Conference is an umbrella group that strives to give a single voice to the varying membership of its constituent organizations. Just as important, it is considered the Jewish spokesman by governments here and abroad.

Its primary, although not sole, concern is Israel. On Monday, it took out full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today, in which it reproduced Israel’s Declaration of Independence in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

The conference, though, is actually two legal entities. One takes dues from its constituent organizations; the other raises money from donations. Tax documents show that Malcolm Hoenlein, the conference’s executive vice chairman, receives about $600,000 a year in salary and other compensation.

Deputy Director and COO Carolyn Green receives $300,000. While she provided WJW with the conference’s mission statement, she did not respond to requests to discuss the organization for this article.

Member organizations have one vote, regardless of size. This has led over the years to tensions between large organizations, which feel the conference is weighted against them, and smaller organizations, eager to protect their influence.

That tension erupted again after the April 30 J Street vote, in which 22 member groups opposed admitting J Street; 17 voted in favor, three registered abstentions, and eight were not present.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the largest group in the conference, the Union of Reform Judaism, said in a statement that the Presidents’ Conference “is captive of a large number of small organizations that do not represent the diversity of views in our community.” He hinted that after due consideration, the group may decide to leave the conference.

URJ is part of the conference’s liberal wing that, like J Street, is dovish on Israeli issues. That wing wasn’t big enough to hold the day. Jacobs contended that was because the conference’s voting and membership procedures “all but dictated the result.”

Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, a hawkish group that voted against J Street’s membership, disagrees with the argument that J Street is part of the Jewish mainstream.

“They bring to campuses and their conferences speakers who promote BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions], who defame and delegitimize Israel by falsely claiming that Israel commits atrocities and war crimes against Palestinians,” he told JTA.

ZOA campaigned hard against J Street. So if the Conference of Presidents is so unwelcoming to groups on the left, why bother joining?

“Because it serves as the recognized forum for pro-Israel activity,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for the dovish Americans for Peace Now, which voted in favor of J Street. “We feel we should be there.”

APN’s platform is similar to J Street’s. It was admitted to the Conference in 1993 but not without a battle similar to the one J Street faced.

But it was still easier to join in those days. Despite strong opposition from Klein and others, APN won a majority of votes, the necessary minimum at the time. But in the lead-up to the vote, the ZOA pushed through a rules change. In the future, organizations would need a two-thirds vote of all members for admission.

APN board chairman James Klutznick calls that a “high hurdle. I’m not sure how many could make it through today. Certainly not from the progressive end.”

Klutznick’s father, B’nai B’rith leader Philip Klutznick, helped found the Presidents’ Conference in 1954.

At that time, “President Eisenhower and [Secretary of State] John Foster Dulles wanted to have a place where they could address the Jewish community,” James Klutznick said.

That need for a central address for a rapidly expanding Jewish community was matched by Jewish organizations’ desire for access to U.S. leaders. At the same time, the young State of Israel was looking for support from both the U.S. government and American Jews. The Conference of Presidents became that central address, and although the Jewish community has changed, it retains the prestige of a central address.

Initiatives to restructure the organization have gone nowhere. Anticipating Jacobs, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, in 2003 “suggested creating a standing executive committee ‘with the largest organizations serving as permanent members and smaller organizations serving rotating terms,’” according to the “American Jewish Year Book.”

The Anti-Defamation League and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism supported the idea while Orthodox groups opposed it. This was the same lineup as in the J Street vote.

After the 2003 vote Theodore Mann, according to the “American Jewish Year Book,” a former Presidents’ Conference chairman, called for the dissolution of the conference because it was “an undemocratic institution and not worthy of our great Jewish community.”

Nir of APN wouldn’t go that far.

“The White House turns to the Presidents’ Conference,” he said. “When the administration wants to brief the organized Jewish community in an organized way, they go through the Presidents’ Conference.”

Even today, if the Conference of Presidents didn’t exist, say some, it would need to be created.

dholzel@washingtonjewishweek.com

Not So Fast

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami says that his organization “exists to help Israel reach the deal it needs.” (Photo J Street Facebook page)

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami says that his organization “exists to help Israel reach the deal it needs.” (Photo J Street Facebook page)

In what many observers will see as the de facto expression of mainstream U.S. Jewry’s outlook on J Street, members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last week voted 22-17 (with three abstentions) to reject the membership application of the self-labeled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby. J Street secured the votes of only about a third of the Conference’s 50 members.

The 42 Conference members in attendance in New York exceeded the 75 percent quorum needed to hold the vote, but J Street fell significantly short of the required threshold of a two-thirds affirmative vote from the Conference’s full membership. The result that 25 organizations either voted against J Street or abstained meant that half of the Conference’s members declined to support J Street’s application.

“The Conference meticulously followed its long-established Process and Procedures Guidelines in considering J Street’s application,” Conference of Presidents chairman Robert G. Sugarman and executive vice chairman/ CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement. “The present membership of the Conference includes organizations that represent and articulate the views of broad segments of the American Jewish community, and we are confident that the Conference will continue to present the consensus of the community on important national and international issues as it has for the last 50 years.”

J Street said in a statement, “This is a sad day for us, but also for the American Jewish community and for a venerable institution that has chosen to bar the door to the communal tent to an organization that represents a substantial segment of Jewish opinion on Israel.”

Jewish leaders have used a “big tent” metaphor to describe which views on Israel and U.S. foreign policy are encompassed within the community’s consensus. Since its formation in 2008, J Street has been a frequent subject of debates on how far that tent stretches, and the group’s bid to join the Conference of Presidents proved no different.

The Forward reported that, at an April 11 meeting during which J Street had failed to win the endorsement of a crucial committee for membership in the Conference, J Street was questioned over donations it has received from liberal billionaire George Soros — whose foundations have come under scrutiny for allegedly funding anti-
Israel groups —and over the lobby’s support of the United Nations-sponsored Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians. Furthermore, J Street was accused of collaborating with anti-Israel groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

Some Conference members were also troubled that J Street, if voted in, would have been the only organization in the Conference of Presidents that
endorses or raises money for political candidates through a political action committee.

Andrea Levin — executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a Conference of Presidents member — said in an interview that J Street is taking positions “totally out of sync with the Jewish mainstream,” noting its opposition to a 2011 congressional letter criticizing Palestinian incitement in the wake of the Itamar massacre that killed five members of an Israeli family, and more recently, its refusal to condemn the Fatah-Hamas unity deal.

In an op-ed for JNS.org last year, however, J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami called his group’s position on Israel “the same as that of the Israeli government, the Obama administration and the vast bulk of the American Jewish community.”

“At the end of the day, J Street exists to help Israel reach the deal it needs and wants so much and which is so central to its future as a Jewish state and as a democracy,” wrote Ben-Ami, referring to a two-state solution, whose achievement is central to J Street’s stated mission.

Yet Sarah Stern — president of the Washington, D.C.-based Endowment for Middle East Truth think tank and policy group — believes members of Congress are often confused about where J Street stands on Israel. She noted that J Street “has consistently taken the same positions as the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).” CAIR has been accused of being a front group for the Hamas terrorist group, and NIAC routinely takes anti-Israel positions.

“It’s hard enough for members of Congress to listen to a growing Muslim and Arab demographic, but when they have a Jewish constituency that is basically siding with the enemies of Israel, I think it’s extraordinarily deleterious for the Jewish community here in the U.S,” said Stern.

Georgetown University professor and Middle East analyst Moran Stern, meanwhile, does not believe it is particularly relevant to be asking whether or not J Street is a “mainstream” American Jewish organization.

“The surge of J Street is a fact,” he said. “What the Conference of Presidents and other Jewish organizations in the U.S. that might have conflicting views on J Street are doing, and I think are doing very wisely, is they are identifying the surge of J Street. They recognize it, and they adapt accordingly.”

Before Wednesday’s vote, a number of Conference of Presidents member groups publicly expressed their intent to support J Street’s application. Ameinu — which says it “connects liberal American Jews with a progressive Israel” — posted on Twitter: “Ameinu will vote for J Street’s inclusion in the Conf. of Presidents. They meet all of the requirements. Simple.” In a blog post for the Times of Israel, Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs wrote that there should not be an “ideological litmus test” for joining the umbrella organization.

“If the Conference begins to limit its membership based on organizations’ views on specific policy issues, it ceases to represent the entire American Jewish community,” he wrote.

The leadership of Conservative Judaism’s congregational umbrella group echoed the call for accepting a diversity of views.

“The Conference of Presidents is designed as a forum in which the Jewish community, in all its diversity, can come together to discuss the major issues of the day and speak with world leaders and organizations as representatives of the Jewish people,” said United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick and international president Richard Skolnik.

On the flip side, the Zionist Organization of America campaigned aggressively against J Street’s bid. Ahead of the vote, ZOA distributed 18 bullet points for why it believed J Street should not be admitted to the Conference of Presidents and issued news releases slamming J Street’s statements on the Palestinian unity deal and Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark warning that Israel could become an “apartheid state.”

Reacting to criticism of Kerry’s comments, J Street had said, “Instead of putting energy into attacking Secretary Kerry, those who are upset with the secretary’s use of the term should put their energy into opposing and changing the policies that are leading Israel down this road.”

ZOA then said, “J Street has again demonstrated that it is an extremist group, hostile to Israel, by supporting Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘apartheid’ accusation against Israel.”

Moran Stern, however, said that from his observations of the culture of U.S. Jewish organizations, he has witnessed a “reservoir” of talented and educated young American Jews among the J Street ranks and questioned the premise of abandoning that cadre of Israel advocates.

“The question is what do you do with that reservoir,” he said, explaining that leaving out J Street might “play into the hands of those who are anti-Israel because they will say, ‘Look at the Conference of Presidents that claims to be pro-Israel and pro-Jewish, and here there is a group like J Street that supports the two-state solution and all that, and when they try to be part of that club they are being denied.’”

The professor added that given J Street’s popularity on college campuses, it is important not to neglect those young American Jews who care about Israel but may have a different approach than traditional pro-Israel advocates.

“I think that while you may not accept certain ideas, J Street certainly doesn’t fall under this category,” he said. “They do not call for the one-state solution, for the destruction of Israel, for boycotting Israel. Quite on the contrary.”

But Dr. Charles Jacobs — president of Boston-based Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the group behind the new documentary “The J Street Challenge” — explained that J Street breaks a long-honored tradition between American Jews and Israel.

“[American Jews] can freely criticize Jewish leaders in Israel — we can do it publicly, but we, who do not live there or have our children on the front lines, do not have the right to use our American power to circumvent Israeli democracy and to try to lobby to get an American administration to impose our views and policies on the Israelis,” said Jacobs. “J Street’s entire program is designed to break this longstanding agreement.”

Life In The Fast Lane

More than pizza and sharks motivate Owings Mills JCC Barracudas swim team member Alan Cherches. He also calls upon goal setting, time management and technique improvement. And at the age of 9, he has the track record to back it up.

Last year, Cherches broke many of 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps’ 8-and-under records, and he has blasted seven Maryland state age-group records, some of which had been held for more than 20 years. In his age group, he is a five-time state champion and is nationally ranked in the Top 5. But he wasn’t always at one with the water.

“Here’s my Alan, shaking like a leaf; he was greenish blue and crying hysterically,” recalled Olga Cherches, Alan’s mother, as she described his first time in the pool at age 3.

At the time, Alan was enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at the Jewish Community Center.

“When I got him in the water,” continued Olga, “he squeezed me so hard I could see the marks on my arm.”

Alan’s mother was gentle with him, but both she and her husband, Dmitry, who as a teen was a competitive swimmer, wanted their son to be comfortable in the water.

Alas, Alan’s general distaste for swim lessons persisted. The turning point came when his grandfather, Nikolay Mandel, began taking him regularly to the JCC pool.

“He would tell me if I went under the lane line and back, he would buy me pizza in the café,” remembered Alan. “That’s what got me. Then I started to do way more because I thought I might get a whole box [of pizza] if I did.”

Over the following year, Alan still didn’t warm up to lessons, but his grandfather was persistent with their after-school trips to the pool. To everyone’s surprise, Alan began to improve noticeably. Then, Alan’s father discovered the JCC swim team.

Alan tried out and made the team at age 5. Olga was shocked: “I said, ‘What? Get outta here! I mean, seriously?’”

For Dmitry Cherches, who swam competitively until he was 14, the accomplishment signaled more than just a spot on the team.

“It’s a repetitive sport. You’re constantly perfecting the strokes, goal setting, seeing those goals being crushed,” said Alan’s father. “That develops a very unique individual who is mentally, physically tough — mentally, because you learn how to control your nerves and your mind.”

Twenty years ago this month, Dmitry arrived in Owings Mills with his family from Minsk, Belarus. He was just 17. The family received assistance from relatives and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and upon arrival, Dmitry immediately enrolled at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, carrying 20-plus credits each semester while holding down a full-time job.

Dmitry attributes that effort to a “hard-working immigrant work ethic” but also credits his years as a competitive swimmer, which taught him the value of serious work and discipline.

Olga and Dmitry had known each other from childhood, but when he emigrated they lost touch. When they reunited many years later, it was a swift leap to something more. Olga came to Owings Mills in 2003, and a short time later they married.

Olga immersed herself into learning English, was hired as an information technology recruiter, “networked like crazy” for two years and a few years later started her own recruiting company, Leading Edge Solutions. The couple has three children: Alan, Mark, 6, and Ryan, 1.

With motivated and resolute parents, it seems Alan’s capacity for determination, strong will and perseverance are characteristics he inherited. Olga and Dmitry, however, attribute their son’s success to his own hard work. They also credit the team, other parents’ support and the coaches of the JCC Barracudas, a part of the JCC aquatics department.

“It’s not necessarily the performance, it’s the work ethic that’s important,” said aquatics director Bill Kirkner. “Alan’s not the only one on the team with that ethic. In fact, he’s probably mimicking the work ethic of some of the older kids.”

Kirkner added that when a child sees and understands how hard work can lead to improved performance, it acts like a contagion for success across the team. Barracudas head coach Brendan McElroy agrees.

“Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard,” said McElroy, reciting an often-used mantra. “If you’re competitive and you work hard, you can go a long way with this sport.”

McElroy’s mission is to promote youth development through excellence in competitive swimming. He describes his program as “character based” and referenced as key factors things such as 5 a.m. practices, leadership, accountability, goal setting, perseverance, managing disappointment and dealing with setbacks. He has been working with Alan for almost two years.

“What I remember most about Alan’s first year was doing my best to call down my assistant coaches for calling him Alan Phelps and gloating over him too much,” said McElroy. “So I had to make a concerted effort. If he walks in late to practice, he does push-ups.

“I want to do my best to treat him as fairly as I can,” continued the coach. “It’s about the team.”

McElroy provided a well-known statistic from USA Swimming, the national organization that registers, supports and ranks competing teams. Only 10 percent of swimmers who are fast at 10 years old are still fast at 18. Some of that has to do with growth; if a child doesn’t have a big enough growth spurt, that may be a drawback. “So it’s all about building and developing and adding on,” the coach said, “and you want to do it smartly.”

Right On!

Charles Krauthammer shared his perspectives on domestic and foreign affairs at Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s inaugural Dahan Lecture on May 4. (Provided)

Charles Krauthammer shared his perspectives on domestic and foreign affairs at Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s inaugural Dahan Lecture on May 4. (Provided)

Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and self-described conservative Charles Krauthammer gave his audience plenty of red meat Sunday to hurl at the left-leaning set, and judging from his reception, it didn’t appear that many of them were sitting in the Beth Tefiloh Congregation’s Dahan Sanctuary.

In what was billed as the inaugural Haron Dahan Lecture, Krauthammer, an author, psychiatrist and Fox News commentator, minced no words in his overview of international affairs, presenting a scalding critique of the Obama administration’s policies.

After Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg’s warm introduction, Krauthammer’s entrance was greeted with a standing ovation from the hundreds of people in the Dahan Sanctuary. Krauthammer thanked the rabbi for his introduction and drew laughs from the crowd when he also thanked Wohlberg for omitting an interesting detail: Krauthammer was once a speechwriter for former Minnesota Democratic Sen. — and later presidential candidate — Walter Mondale.

“People ask me about how I could go from being a speechwriter for Mondale to Fox News,” he began. “I tell them, ‘I was young once.’ ”

He then acknowledged that liberals in the audience would probably be unhappy with what he had to say, but he joked that — like Fox News’ tagline — he would try his best to be “fair and balanced.”

Krauthammer started by analyzing the Obama presidency.

“Barack Obama came to office as one of the most unknown, least-prepared presidents we have ever seen. He turns out to be ideologically ambitious and open and honest about his plans for the country,” he said. “He is not a conventional liberal but is more of a social Democrat who wanted to make us more like Europe. … Obama sees large things, and he wants to nationalize them.

“I am stunned by how open he is about his desire to fundamentally change America in three ways — health, education and energy,” continued Krauthammer. “He hasn’t succeeded in everything … but Obamacare will have consequences for many years to come. It will undo many of the achievements of modern medicine.”

Based on his performance in his first term, Obama, said the columnist, should not have won a second term.

“The 2012 election was an anomaly,” he asserted. “Republicans, in their genius, lost an unlosable election. I liked Mitt Romney. I supported him, and I voted for him. I think he would have been a good president. But he was not a good candidate. Republicans managed to nominate the only man who couldn’t make the case against Obamacare,because he invented Obamacare in Massachusetts … and he spoke Conservatism as a second language.”

Krauthammer, however, said he is optimistic about a Republican win in 2016.

“I think the country remains a center-right country, and I think we have many good, young candidates: Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush,” he said. But Bush “has one problem, his name. I’ve got a solution for him, change it. Marco Rubio has had a bad year, but he will be strong too.”

Click here to see the other part of the interview.

He said that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is his favorite candidate.

“Chris Christie ran into trouble with conservatives when he got a little chummy with Obama during Hurricane Sandy,” Krauthammer acknowledged. “They said he gave Obama a bear hug. I say he gave Obama a lap dance.”

Worrying that perhaps he had gone too far for a synagogue audience with that last remark, he checked in with the rabbi, drawing more laughter from the crowd. Regarding “Bridgegate,” the ongoing scandal of the Christie administration’s closing of the George Washington Bridge in an apparent effort to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for not endorsing the governor, Krauthammer feigned disappointment at the weakness of such a punishment.

“I was deeply dismayed by Bridgegate and the state of revenge in this country,” he remarked. “In the old days in New Jersey, you would have put a horse in his bed, sent him a fish in the mail, or the doorbell rings and Tanya Harding is standing there.”

Krauthammer then went on to talk about foreign affairs, an area in which he also found fault with the Obama administration. Pointing to the current situations in Iraq, Russia and Syria, Krauthammer said that Obama has damaged the reputation of the United States by “withdrawing America from the world. When the Ukrainians came to the U.S. last month, they asked for weapons but were turned down and given food instead.”

Krauthammer believes the sanctions that Obama has given Russia are “weak and laughable. The Japanese and Koreans see China getting stronger, and the U.S. under this president is shrinking. They are scared.”

Krauthammer also criticized administration efforts toward a non-nuclear Iran.

“The negotiations are a total sham,” he charged. “Once the Iranians can enrich [uranium], they can build nuclear weapons. If an agreement is reached, we could be six months away from them having nukes. Once we decided to loosen sanctions, we lost. It’s a very dangerous place to be. The only thing that could help is regime stability. The only thing the ayatollah value more than nukes is regime stability.”

With regard to Israel, Krauthammer called Obama’s record a “disgrace,” saying he was the worst president for Israel we have ever had.

In an interview before the lecture, he called Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts in the Middle East “feckless and vain. There was never any chance of agreement. It was preposterous to spend this kind of time on it. Abbas made it clear he would never sign an agreement, and Kerry went about it anyway. There are a lot of details, but the core issue is extremely simple. As long as the Palestinians refuse to recognize the Jewish state, there will be no peace. On the day they decide to recognize the existence of a Jewish state, there will be peace within two weeks.”

The “good news,” Krauthammer told the Beth Tfiloh crowd, “is that I don’t believe the American people will stand for this. There is a kind of humiliation among Americans about doing nothing about Syria and giving in to Russia. We don’t like that no one respects the U.S.

“Our allies are afraid, and our enemies are emboldened,” he continued. “They will express themselves in the voting booth. In the end, if you make a case for small but compassionate government, you’ll win.”

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Hoffman Achieves Adviser Status

Benjamin K. Hoffman has become an Ameriprise Financial private wealth adviser. Hoffman, with an office in Timonium, is one of approximately 9 percent of the nearly 10,000 Ameriprise financial advisers to achieve this status.

Hoffman is part of Slyker, Hoffman & Associates, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

As an Ameriprise private wealth adviser, Hoffman is focused on providing advice and financial solutions for clients with high-asset levels. He is knowledgeable on a variety of topics and strategies including retirement, tax and estate planning, insurance and asset management.

Jewish groups criticize Supreme Court ruling

Several Jewish organizations condemned this week’s Supreme Court decision that allows local governments to begin their meetings with a religious prayer as long as no one is coerced into participating.

“An individual’s belief — or non-belief — ought not be a prerequisite to accessing the political process,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The ruling “undermines the fundamental American principle of equal participation in government, regardless of the faith of the individual.”

In the case, The Town of Greece v. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, the justices decided by a 5-4 vote that a town can begin its meetings with religious prayers, even when those prayers consistently favor one religion. That New York town subjected those in attendance to mostly Christian prayer, according to the two women who filed the suit.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs said the ruling eroded the Bill of Rights. “We are concerned that this could mark a turn toward more religion in the public arena, which could discourage the participation of minority groups,” noted JCPA chair Susan Turnbull.

The National Council of Jewish Women said the ruling was a step back for religious freedom. “This ruling leaves us deeply concerned for the fate of the principle of separation of religion and state in the next court case that will surely come,” said CEO Nancy Kaufman.

However, the Orthodox Union saw a bright side to the ruling, applauding the Court’s perspective “that religion has a place in America’s public square” but that government “should be mindful of our pluralism.”

FutureCare Among Best in America

FutureCare Health and Management, Maryland’s premier skilled nursing and rehabilitation provider, has announced that four of its facilities have been recognized on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Nursing Homes in America list for 2014.

FutureCare Old Court, FutureCare Sandtown, FutureCare Lochearn and FutureCare Cold Spring all earned the highest possible rating, five stars overall. The ratings were determined by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services based on each facility’s overall performance in health inspections, nurse staffing and quality of medical care. Approximately 28 percent of all skilled nursing facilities in Maryland received the overall five-star rating.

FutureCare Cherrywood was recently designated by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services a five-star facility in the state of Maryland.