Connected to Give

Brett and Julie Cohen recently enrolled in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund.

Brett and Julie Cohen recently enrolled in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund.

Jewish social engagement drives charitable giving to both Jewish and non-Jewish causes.

So reported a recent study by Jumpstart, a philanthropic research and design lab based in Los Angeles, Calif. Earlier this year, Jumpstart released “Connected to Give,” the first findings from its National Study on American Jewish Giving. They collected data from nearly 3,000 American Jewish households that covered a wide spectrum of philanthropic habits. Polled were those with and without wills, Jews donating to Jewish and secular causes and those who do and do not include charitable bequests in their wills (dollars earmarked to charity upon their death).

Legacy or planned giving (charitable contributions pledged in wills or estate-planning documents) is typically considered attainable only by financially established or older patrons. But that sentiment is changing, reports the study, as more and more legacy programs geared to younger adults are being established within foundations.

Daniela Levine, senior development associate for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s legacy and endowment department, engages young adults in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund, a “during lifetime” contribution program.

“The Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund requires a $10,000 initial
contribution, and perhaps that’s too high a barrier for some young adults,” said Levine. “So we allow younger individuals (40 and under) to contribute $2,000 a year for five years to get their $10,000. Once they’ve reached that amount they can recommend grants from their fund like any other donor-advised fund contributor.”

The Associated’s donor-advised programs are tax deductible at the time of contribution into the fund, and its Consolidated Investment Fund (CIF) is managed by Associated fund managers. Brett Cohen, 34, and his wife Julie, recently enrolled in the Young Donor Advised Philanthropic Fund.

“We come from comfortable families with average resources,” said Cohen. “So especially with a new family, $10,000 was a little daunting. But $2,000 a year is about … $6 a day, that’s like a Starbucks coffee. We can do this. Young people have the capacity and ability and desire to do more, to really help out the community on a larger scale.”

The Cohens also see this as a way to pass on the value of tzedakah (charity) to their newborn son, and they hope to recruit other young friends that have the financial availability and capacity. They want to help create another generation of giving to the Baltimore community.

The Create a Jewish Legacy program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington also has an initiative geared to young adults as part of its “after lifetime” donor program.

“It’s called the Key Donor Life Insurance Program,” said Yvonne Schlafstein Distenfeld, co-chair of Create a Jewish Legacy. “A young person purchases a life insurance policy and the United Jewish Endowment Fund (the endowment arm of the federation), shares the cost 50/50 of the new policy with the donors and the federation is the beneficiary. So legacy giving is not just for very, very rich people or people in the third part of their life.”

Because life insurance policies cost much less when purchased at a young age, this is attainable for younger donors, enabling them to make a much larger financial impact than they thought possible.

“The Create a Jewish Legacy program reaches young adults because we’re creating a visible culture of planned giving across our community,” says Distenfeld. “It’s a cultural change of thinking.”

Kate Conn, CEO of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation said, “Organizations are leaving millions of dollars on the table by not placing planned giving front and center in their philanthropic efforts.”

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor —

Analysis: A Closer Look At The P5+1-Iranian Agreement

There wasn’t a news site by last Sunday morning void of a story about the historic deal — or “mistake,” as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was calling it — which was signed between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France plus Germany) late last Saturday night.

But, according to analysts, many of the headlines that cluttered the Internet were inaccurate and deceptive. There was no “freeze,” “halt” or “stopping” of Iranian nuclear proliferation as many newspapers and websites described. Rather, said Dr. Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute, on a Jewish Federations of North America leadership briefing Monday afternoon, “it impedes or limits” nuclear progress.

What does Iran give up? What does it get to keep?

Iran’s key commitment is to limit its enrichment of uranium — the element needed to make a nuclear bomb — to 5 percent, according to a summary of the agreement released by the White House. Iran will dilute its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium down to 5 percent, freeze many of its centrifuges that produce uranium and disable some technical features of some centrifuges. Iran also will stop construction and fuel production for its unfinished plutonium reactor and not expand its enrichment capabilities.

Under the agreement, Iran may continue to enrich uranium and does not need to dismantle any centrifuges or its plutonium reactor — conditions Netanyahu has said are necessary.

What is the significance of different levels of uranium enrichment?

Only a rare and specific type of uranium, uranium 235, can be used for a nuclear weapon. Enrichment, which is conducted using centrifuges, is the process of separating that material from the rest of the uranium supply. Five percent enrichment, for example, means that 5 percent of the uranium stockpile in question is uranium 235.

Five-percent-enriched uranium can be used for civilian purposes such as nuclear power; to be used for a nuclear weapon, uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent. Iran has long claimed that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.

The agreement aims to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment at 5 percent. However, getting uranium from 0 to 5 percent is the hardest part of enrichment; jumping from 5 to 90 percent is easier. So by allowing Iran to enrich to 5 percent, the agreement allows Iran to continue clearing the biggest enrichment-related hurdle to bomb-making capacity.

Iran also possesses “next-generation” centrifuges that allow it to jump from 5 to 90 percent in a matter of weeks — what Israelis call a “breakout capacity.” The agreement freezes those centrifuges but doesn’t require Iran to fully dismantle them.

In exchange, most of the sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors will stay in place, including $100 billion in holdings that Iran cannot access, but there will be $7 billion in relief, including the release of funds from some Iranian oil sales and the suspension of sanctions on Iran’s auto, precious metals and petro-chemical industries.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is calling the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran a “historic mistake.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is calling the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran a “historic mistake.”
(Haim Zach/ GPO/FLASH90)

And this is why Israel is calling the deal a “historic mistake,” as Netanyahu put it during his Sunday cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu said, “Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world.”

“If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid,” said Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party and a government minister, “it will be because of the deal that was signed [in Geneva].”

Several American congressmen and senators — as well as analysts — are seconding that notion.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a statement that she feels the agreement reached with Iran “leaves unfulfilled our ultimate objective: a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and related activities. … The agreement … simply does not go far enough to ensure our national security interests and those of our allies, like the democratic Jewish State of Israel.”

Opponents of the deal were spewing off terms like “worried” and “suspicious” in blogs and on social media, as well as in official statements disseminated to supporters and the media. Concern came from those in official capacities, as well as Jewish citizens in the area.

“I have serious concerns,” said U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in a statement.

“I am deeply concerned,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

“I have little trust in the Iranian regime,” noted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Intelligence Committee. “We will need to scrutinize Iranian behavior to ensure they do not cheat.”

Dr. Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he is not confident. He said, “I am suspicious, suspicious, suspicious.”

In Baltimore, Israel Orange of Israel Orange Studios, told the JT, “I am worried,” and asked, “How can this be good?”

Shimmy Rosenblum from Silver Spring, now living in Israel, said, “It will work well for Iran bombing its enemies. [President] Obama has shown a new low in world diplomacy.”

Added the Maryland/Israel Development Center’s Peter Telem, “Substitute the words ‘Nazi Germany’ for Iran, then think again about how this will turn out.”

Friedman ‘Starts Up’ With MIDC

MIDC’s hiring of Ilan Friedman comes at a time of new growth  for the organization. (Provided)

MIDC’s hiring of Ilan Friedman comes at a time of new growth for the organization. (Provided)

The Maryland/Israel Development Center has made a new hire. But you won’t see him too often at the MIDC office in the Department of Business and Economic Development in Baltimore City. That’s because his office is in Netanya, Israel.

Ilan Friedman will now serve as the connector between Maryland and Israeli companies and the MIDC. His role replaces a years-long relationship between MIDC and Trendlines, which, according to executive director Barry Bogage, had become less effective because of Trendlines’ focus on seed-stage startups that were not ready to enter or collaborate with the American market. Friedman will focus on more mature high-tech companies with the capability to expand into the U.S. arena.

Friedman comes to the MIDC after more than a decade of working with a similar organization out of Atlanta and then with assisting Israeli companies through his firm, Ncompas International Market Development, in their marketing and sales initiatives to better prepare them for international growth. Born in New York but raised in Israel since the age of 2, Friedman has spent time in both countries and has a deep understanding of the two economies. Now that he signed an agreement with MIDC, which became official at the first of the month, he will focus solely on Maryland-Israel economic relations.

“The whole idea is to promote MIDC and Maryland, and I can’t be working with competing groups or states,” Friedman said.

Friedman’s hire comes at a time of new growth for MIDC. According to Bogage, Gov. Martin O’Malley increased the state allocation to MIDC for 2014 by 100 percent, doubling funds available for staff, marketing and projects that can bring jobs to both economies. In addition to hiring Friedman, Bogage added Jennifer Rubin Raskas in Montgomery County to better expand opportunities in that area of the state.

In the last two years, MIDC has scored some big wins, including convincing defense giant ELTA to open its American office in Howard County. Likewise, several Israeli companies are applying to enter (or have already entered) into area incubators, the first step in a Maryland presence. Those companies include Hybrid Security, Roboteam and Zuznow, among a handful of others.

“We already have a lot of new activity, and we expect to keep growing exceptionally,” said Bogage. “After years of doing this by myself, it is fantastic to have great staff.”

Friedman said he believes that Maryland and Israel have the potential for even more and improved synergy. While he is not setting a metric in terms of number of companies he would like to see collaborate, he said he is focused on getting Israeli companies investors, customers and partners in the state. He does not think that Maryland companies could necessarily benefit from having storefronts in Israel, but rather from learning about Israeli technologies and creating partnerships that would enable local companies to use the innovation in Israel to enhance their products and services.

The two primary areas of potential synergy are in the cyber security and the life-science arenas. He said both Maryland and Israel are leaders in these fields, and he expects they could better assist one another.

Concurrently, MIDC has a robust membership of close to 300 companies and/or individuals. Friedman will work with the rest of the MIDC team to figure out how the organization can better tap into its professional network to assist Israeli companies and to look at what more MIDC can offer the professionals in terms of access to Israeli innovations — first and for profit.

One other message that Friedman hopes to convey: “Israel is not in the same position as it was in the past. It is not a needy market. It used to need [economic] support, and it received that support. … Israel today has an extremely powerful economy and is a very influential country.”

He said that while there is much Americans can still do for Israel and things that Maryland can offer the Jewish state, he also hopes that he can use his role to improve the local market. He noted that Israel being the startup nation with the highest concentration of innovation in the world did not happen by accident but was the result of a process put in place by the Israeli government and the private sector.

“We can and should learn from the U.S.,” said Friedman. “But there is a lot the U.S. can learn from Israel.”

 See related article, “Showcase Of Innovation”>>

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief


Protests At The Port

Delegate Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg is leading an effort to edit the Maryland Port Administration’s  guidelines for protests and rallies. (Kirsten Beckerman)

Delegate Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg is leading an effort to edit the Maryland Port Administration’s guidelines for protests and rallies. (Kirsten Beckerman)

As early as this winter, organizing demonstrations at Baltimore’s World Trade Center could get a lot easier.

Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (D-41) is leading an effort to edit the Maryland Port Administration’s guidelines for protests and rallies at the iconic Inner Harbor building that he said could be up for review by the end of the calendar year. The move is a result of complaints from the community about the difficulties demonstration organizers face under the administration’s current code.

“Government decisions are to be content-neutral,” said Rosenberg. “That’s why you have regulations.”

A few years ago, Jay Bernstein, host of Shalom USA and an active member of the Baltimore Zionist District, sought to organize a BZD protest at the World Trade Center against shipping companies that the group had learned were trading with Iran.

“After a lot of back and forth, we were not given permission to demonstrate in the plaza in front of the World Trade Center,” said Bernstein. Eventually, the group settled on a nearby location belonging to the National Aquarium.

About a year ago, Bernstein said he again faced challenges obtaining permission from the Maryland Port Administration to arrange a demonstration on World Trade Center property. This time, the protest was against John Mearsheimer, author of the book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” who was scheduled to speak in the building. Again, Bernstein said, the process for obtaining permission was long and arduous and required assistance from Rosenberg and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Bernstein and two others who wanted to hand out leaflets near the building.

The biggest modification, should the changes be adopted, is that there will now be set official requirements for organizing peaceful protests at the WorldTrade Center. In the past, there were no formal guidelines to help demonstration coordinators through the process. Instead, they relied on writing letters to officials at the Port and waiting for a reply telling them what the administration had decided.

With the adaptation of new, looser regulations about where and when people can protest in Baltimore, Bernstein said the atmosphere in Baltimore is gradually warming toward public demonstrations. However, in years past, he said, “the atmosphere was very unwelcoming.”

Often, organizers wouldn’t know who to contact in the first place to begin the process of obtaining permission.

In October, the city agreed to allow groups to demonstrate or pass out leaflets at any of the city’s parks and 10 other designated locations without obtaining a permit so long as the group did not exceed 30 people. That regulation was years in the making and resulted in a city payment of $98,000 to the ACLU to settle a federal lawsuit over the rights of protesters in the city. Rosenberg doesn’t expect this regulation to be nearly as difficult to sell.

“I would anticipate that this wouldn’t be very controversial,” said Rosenberg. “The ideas have to make their way in the marketplace of ideas.”

Music Worth Remembering

“Usually, people associate choral singing with Christianity,” said Isaiah Cox, founder of the all-male a cappella ensemble Who Knows 5. “But there is a long tradition of Jewish sacred choral music beginning in the 17th century.”

In celebration of Chanukah, Who Knows 5 will present a concert at Etz Chaim: The Center For Jewish Living and Learning (3702 Fords Lane, Baltimore) on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m.

Cox sang with a choir that performed Jewish sacred choral music when he lived in England for 10 years.

“It was a very prestigious choir that performed on TV, for members of the royal family and at state events, in addition to weddings,” he said.

When Cox moved to Baltimore about nine years ago, he was hoping to find a similar musical opportunity. Eventually, he discovered Baltimore’s Jewish Music Heritage Project (JMHP) and met its founder, Cantor Sholom Kalib. The JMHP was dedicated to the performance and archival recording of sacred Jewish music. Cox sang with the JMHP until it stopped performing in 2007. The group has continued its mission to document, catalog and disseminate sacred Eastern European music.

“When the JMHP performances ended, we decided to form our own ensemble that sang more challenging music and was much smaller than the JMHP choir. Because we are smaller [five vocalists now and no more than six in the past], the experience for audiences is more intimate,” Cox said.

The music of Who Knows 5 is all vocal, although Cox, who is the group’s second tenor, joked that Gavriel Lewin, first tenor, also “plays a mean pitch pipe.”

The other ensemble members are baritones Dave Weintraub and Yehuda Mond and bass Dr. Menachem Miller.

Lewin said they are hoping to bring traditional Jewish music to the masses.

“Jewish music today is mostly pop or maybe Shlomo Carlebach,” he said. “When I came into this group, I knew nothing about this [traditional sacred] music. This is the oldest written Jewish music. … It touches me in my bones. You can feel that it is part of our Judaism. This was the music our great-great-grandparents listened to,” he said.

Cox, who said the ensemble will perform about 18 pieces by composers that include Louis Lewandowski, Yossele Rosenblatt, Salamone Rossi, Zavel Zilberts, Israel Lazarus Mombach, Benedetto Marcello, G.F. Handel and Isaac Heymann, noted, “It’s the ultimate retro music.”

Music, Puppets Connect With Seniors

Yenta, Gita, Yunkle and Antiochus all walk into a senior assisted-living community. Does it sound like quite the story?

In this case, they were all puppets, but the human connection was very real for the residents of Emeritus Senior Living in Pikesville, thanks to the Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers.

The Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers perform their Chanukah show at Emeritus Senior Living, where Dena Schrier, life  enrichment director, says residents are treated to special events three times a week. (Photos by Melissa Gerr)

The Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers perform their Chanukah show at Emeritus Senior Living, where Dena Schrier, life enrichment director, says residents are treated to special events three times a week.
(Photos by Melissa Gerr)

Anita Knisbacher has combined her background in instructional technology, a Ph.D. in education and the emotional experience of her mother’s debilitating stroke to create a unique outreach event for seniors. It started in Florida, where Knisbacher was living at the time, and she witnessed how lonely the people in her mother’s nursing home seemed and how much they longed for company. She knew immediately that she wanted to do something for the senior community, but she wasn’t sure what.

A series of events occurred leading her to join the National Council for Jewish Women puppet group, in which she learned about creating short scenarios dealing with sensitive subjects that were presented in area Florida schools with great success.

Knisbacher’s friend, Sonia Maltinsky, soon became involved, and together they saw the value of how puppetry might be used in Baltimore, where they now live, particularly within the senior community.

Emeritus Senior Living resident Lucille Becker enjoys the Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers’ Chanukah show.

Emeritus Senior Living resident Lucille Becker enjoys the Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers’ Chanukah show.

The idea grew, and they made contact with Beth Tfiloh. Getting involved immediately at BT were Chesed committee member Roselyn Kalb, social action committee member Lindsay Gaister, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg and executive director Eve Kresin Steinberg. The whole project gained momentum, and the Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers group was born.

Knisbacher and Maltinsky perform with other puppeteers including Eva Engles, Rosalie Klotzman, Jeff Knisbacher, Arnold Maltinsky and Judy Werner. Rita Waltz, Knisbacher’s sister, provides backstage support. They even have a groupie who has followed their performances to multiple locations, and Klotzman has started learning Yiddish because many residents they visit seem to respond well to that language.

All of the group’s members enjoy both the experience and the challenge of performing together as well as bringing something special into the lives of the seniors they visit.

“When I hear people in the audience laugh while we’re performing, it really makes it all worthwhile,” said Judy Werner, who plays puppet Shayna in the current production. “And when I go into the audience after the show and speak to people and see them smile, it just makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing. … I think I’m receiving more than I’m giving.”

The stage was donated by Knisbacher and Waltz in memory of their mother, Regina Marshall.

What’s next? The Beth Tfiloh Puppeteers are planning a Purim show.

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor —

Tree Of Life

Ever since the Pew Research Center survey on U.S. Jews was published, there have been countless dialogues and debates about how to stop what some have gone as far as to consider a crisis of the Jewish people.

Headlines such as “Diving Into ‘The Melting Pot’ for Answers on Pew Survey,” “Jewish Identity Crisis Revealed in New Pew Survey” and “The Pew Survey of Jewish Americans: Panic or Perspective” have made some organizations start to rethink the way they do business.

Statistically, Baltimore is behind some of the challenging trends in terms of Jewish identity and affiliation of young Jews and intermarriage — but not that far behind.

One organization thinks it might have an answer, and it comes in the form of warmth, connectivity and content. It comes in the form of Etz Chaim: The Center For Jewish Living And Learning.

Etz Chaim (Tree of Life in English) has been around since it was launched as an experiment in 1976 in the kitchen of a Ner Israel Rabbinical College couple, Rabbi and Mrs. Chaim Gibber, with the support of a neighbor couple, Rabbi and Mrs. Reuven Drucker. Their goal at the time was to attract, inspire and educate young Baltimore Jews who either were not affiliated with a synagogue or did not utilize the synagogue as a personal resource. On a shoestring budget, their first Jewish studies class attracted 20 people.

By the early 1980s, however, that 20 had doubled and then tripled, and no longer could the program be housed in the Gibbers’ home, and no longer could it be run on the $15,000 budget that had been raised. The office was moved to a 300-square-foot space in the Imperial Condominium complex, and with the hire of Rabbi Shlomo Porter it started a 30-year journey to the full-fledged program it is today, now located at 3702 Fords Lane.

With its roots firmly established, in the last year, Etz Chaim has focused inward, and now it is further blossoming.

Rabbi Shlomo Porter says in the post-Hippie era, there was a spiritual resurgence. (photos by David Stuck)

Rabbi Shlomo Porter says in the post-Hippie era, there was a spiritual resurgence.
(photos by David Stuck)

In 2012, Etz Chaim and Rabbi Porter realized the organization was at risk of losing its flair.

Rabbi Porter describes the 1970s and 1980s as an era of spiritual resurgence. “Thirty years ago, there were Jews searching for Judaism. People were throwing the ball, and we said we would be the catchers,” he said. “We saw we had to develop a more proactive model, a non-threatening model for today.”

To be clear, said Rabbi Porter, the organization is not out to encourage its consumers to be Orthodox (though it will help them with this journey if that is the path they choose). Rather, he said, Etz Chaim aims to give its constituents a better Jewish identity so that they can pass that on to their children, find someone Jewish to marry or find a Jewish group of friends.

“We began looking at what people were looking for and not what we want to sell, what we want to promote,” said Rabbi Porter.

The organization worked with outside consultants, which defined for Etz Chaim a need to offer more family programming, to raise more money and to foster more youthful involvement. The end result was the merger of the Wow! Program, which targets young post-college adults for Jewish learning and programming, and Etz Chaim.

Rabbi Nitzan Bergman has brought communication, coordination and capitalizaton to Etz Chaim.

Rabbi Nitzan Bergman has brought communication, coordination and capitalizaton to Etz Chaim.

The hire of Rabbi Nitzan Bergman as the new executive director shifted Rabbi Porter to a role as dean and president. In that capacity, he spends most of his time mentoring his now much-younger staff and counseling individuals and families who have grown in their religious observance but are struggling with one aspect or another. Rabbi Bergman has brought new and stronger communication, capitalization and coordination to Etz Chaim’s many programs.

And while some organizations are vying for members or re-envisioning their missions and visions, Etz Chaim has done this and is daily reaching people where they are and in a way that allows it to continue to grow — and help the next generation of Jews grow, too.

Low Barrier, High Content
If anything came out of the dialogues about the Pew Survey at the recent General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, it was that while we need low-barrier ways to invite in young adults and young families, we need to give them something when they walk in the door.

Said David Denker, senior associate for communications and government relations in the Israel Office of The Jewish Federations of North America at the GA: “The biggest turnoff is [an] event where there is not enough Jewish content. There is a tendency to dumb things down, and I think we need to raise the bar in all of our events. … I think we should demand … that we are learning all the time, learning and strengthening our interaction with tradition and with each other.”

He was speaking on a panel about young adult engagement.

At Etz Chaim, instead of latkes and vodka, said Rabbi Porter, it is whiskey and wisdom.

“There is always wisdom,” said Rabbi Porter. “Every program has it.”

Rivka Malka Perlman says she does not need to sell Torah; Torah sells itself.

Rivka Malka Perlman says she does not need to sell Torah; Torah sells itself.

Take the Wow! Program, which is now run by Rivka Malka Perlman. She said the program got its name because “that is what people say when they walk in the door. … It is awesome to see all these young Jews engaged and interested.”

Perlman’s role is everything from recruiting and event planning to marketing, and “my most important role is caring. Caring means that every person that trusts me enough to walk in the door needs to know that this place is where they matter, where their questions matter and where who they are as a person matters.”

Perlman shakes her head at the notion that there should be a stigma to kiruv.

“You are assuming kiruv means you are selling something. I have a product and I say come and buy it. Kiruv just means draw close. I help people draw closer to themselves, find answers. I draw the Jewish people closer together,” she said.

Perlman described the wisdom she imparts as “relevant.” She said her classes are drawing more than 50 people per week because she thinks that while her warm welcome might draw them in, the Torah sells itself.

“There is, in the deepest place, rootlessness, a loneliness in the young adult community,” said Perlman. “We want freedom, but the minute we have freedom, we book ourselves up at the gym, we get a job. … Being single [means] you want to be doing things, so how do you fill your time?”

Wow! once a week, she said, is “very affirming to them. … You are doing something that matters, you feel good.”

Rabbi Yisroel Porter has a similar experience to Perlman in working with families with young children, mostly young mothers. He said, “People have a desire to connect Jewishly and an even stronger desire to connect Jewishly for their children.”

The website of Rabbi Yisroel Porter’s division, Jewish Family Institute, states, “At the JFI, we work hard to create connection, relationships, understanding and growth — within and for the entire Jewish family. Our goal is to provide meaningful opportunities for growth in Judaism through learning, fun and connectivity.”

While the younger Rabbi Porter and his wife, Chaya, offer few courses, what they do is offer informal programming and connection geared toward increasing the spirituality of young mothers. He said the mother sets the tone in the home, and if she opens up to Judaism the whole house changes.

One of their signature offerings is the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Program, a low-cost trip to Israel that ignites young mothers on a Jewish journey and also gives them the tools to create more Jewishly connected homes.

Baltimore attorney Tara Posner Cornberg helped bring JWRP to Baltimore through Etz Chaim four years ago when she was involved with Wow!. She said Etz Chaim knows “the importance of exposing young and lesser-affiliated women to Jewish traditions and values, and that is one of the missions of JWRP. It is giving them a pathway to explore their Judaism no matter where they fall on the spectrum.”

The other item that the younger Rabbi Porter focuses on is social media. Young parents are busy, he said, but he utilizes his Facebook page ( beingjewish), which has nearly 900 followers, to post articles and other inspirational content. He said he hears feedback that people are looking, and the digital engagement rate is high.

“No one is knocking down our door,” said Rabbi Yisroel Porter. “But every time I post something it is a Kiddush Hashem [sanctifies God’s name]. Even if people don’t come to the programs, they are getting a positive message about Judaism and taking their Jewish identity and making it more meaningful.”

Rabbi Yisroel Porter said he is careful that when he or his wife does run programs that they are intentional and planned with maximum chance for impact. For him, similar to Perlman and to what Rabbi Shlomo Porter said, content is king.

“Every time we put on a program, we make it high quality. They are walking away with substance. A person’s neshama [soul] knows when it has found the truth,” said Rabbi Yisroel Porter.

“We are not going to have impassioned Jewish people who are proud of their heritage unless they know what it is,” said Rabbi Bergman. “There are passionate [non-Orthodox] Jews who are living Judaism as much as I do, but they don’t have the words to tell their children why. … They have to know what we stand for and what it means to be Jewish. … They have to make the necessary sacrifices for their belief. That is the only way we will pass [Judaism] on to the next generation with any success.”

Iran, Major Powers Achieve Interim Deal On Nuclear Program

Iran and the major powers achieved an interim deal to freeze some nuclear activity in exchange for some sanctions relief.

“We have reached an agreement,” Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister leading talks in Geneva, said on his Twitter feed early Sunday morning.

According to a White House statement sent to reporters later in the evening, Iran will stop enriching uranium at 20 percent, but will keep enriching at 5 percent or lower.

Iran will neutralize its existing stockpiles of 20 percent enriched uranium and will not install or build any new centrifuges, except to replace damaged machines.

Experts say 5 percent enriched uranium is well below weaponization, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Iran’s program is advanced enough that even enriching at low levels brings it closer to the weapons breakout point.

Sanctions relief would amount to about $7 billion out of the $100-120 billion that annually impacts Iran’s economy. the White House statement said.

Although some sanctions relief would affect Iran’s energy sector, the statement said the principal sanctions targeting Iran’s banking and energy sectors would remain in place.

The negotiators now have six months to work out a final status deal.

“The agreement reached today between the world powers and Iran is a positive step forward in the diplomatic effort to roll back Iran’s nuclear program,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee, in a statement.

He noted, however, that he has “little trust in the Iranian regime, and we will need to scrutinize Iranian behavior to ensure they do not cheat. … At the same time, if Iran’s new President can make good on his stated intention, the next six months could mark a turning point in our relations with Iran of historic significance.”

Similarly, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he has “serious concerns” that this agreement does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and its allies.

“Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” Royce said in a statement. “This sanctions relief is more lifeline than ‘modest.’ Secretary Kerry should soon come before the Foreign Affairs Committee to address the many concerns with this agreement.”

However, President Obama, in a statement delivered on TV late Saturday night in the United States, said that he would dedicate the time to solving an issue “that has threatened our security and the security of our allies for decades.”

He appealed to Congress not to pass intensified sanctions, saying that to do so would endanger any deal and unravel the alliance that has kept pressure on Iran through sanctions until now.

Obama also said that the “resolve of the United States will remain firm” and so would “the commitment to our allies” which had reason to be skeptical of Iran, naming Israel among them.

JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow released the following statement: “Though Iran has done little to deserve our trust, diplomacy is preferable to military action. At the same time, we support President Obama when he says that no option should be taken off the table. Thus, we believe the interim agreement reached in Geneva today has the potential to serve as a valuable stepping stone to a final agreement that can serve the long term security interests of the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the entire international community. Such a final agreement, which should be negotiated in a tight time frame, must not leave Iran in a position to continue its drive for nuclear weapons capability, or to be able to restart it with ease anytime in the future. The menace of a nuclear armed Iran needs to be eliminated once and for all.”

Said Ori Nir on behalf of Americans for Peace Now: “We congratulate the Obama Administration and its international partners for this important achievement and welcome this demonstration of a new Iranian readiness to seriously negotiate the future of its nuclear program. We believe that anyone who cares about U.S. national security, the security of Israel and stability in the Middle East should likewise welcome this agreement.”



BCoPD Investigating Armed Robbery at Towson Town Center

The Baltimore County Police Department is investigating an armed robbery that occurred at 4:04 p.m. Friday the Towson Town Center.

Police 11.23.2013Preliminary investigation shows that the victim was in the men’s bathroom, near the food court, when two male suspects displayed a knife and demanded his money and cell phone. The victim complied, and then chased the suspects through the food court and into third floor of the mall.

The victim caught up with one of the suspects and pinned him against the wall outside the Call It Spring store. A plainclothes security guard responded to assist the victim, and the second suspect returned to assist the first suspect. A physical struggle followed, and one of the suspects displayed a handgun. Both suspects fled, using an exit near the Littman jewelry store.

The victim was not injured.

The suspects are black males, 18 to 20 years old, with medium builds. One was wearing a black baseball cap, backwards; and a black polo jacket with polo horse insignia. The other was wearing a black leather jacket, dark jeans and dark hoodie. Anyone with information should call Police at 410-307-2020.

A Helping Hand

On any one night, approximately 2,638 Baltimoreans sleep in a shelter or on the street, according to 2013 point-in-time statistics from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office. In Baltimore City, more than four out of every 1,000 residents are homeless. Of these people, two-thirds are men, and 20 percent are younger than 25.

In a city where more than 22 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, there is a great need for those who have the funds to help. And for the Jewish community, we learn from the Torah the power of the collective to make a difference.

In Exodus 36: 2-5, the Torah describes the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness:

“Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring free will offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.’”

As autumn temperatures drop, shelter and support organizers say the need for help among the area’s most poor rises. From coat donations to warm meals, organizations around Baltimore step in to fill the void created by a lack of permanent or stable housing.

In honor of Chanukah, here is a list of eight places in the Baltimore community that support the homeless, organizations that you can work with or contribute to in order to make this Chanukah season more about spreading the light and giving warmth to those in need.

The Baltimore Station
Dedicated primarily to serving veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, The Baltimore Station describes itself as “an innovative therapeutic residential treatment program supporting veterans and others who are transitioning through the cycle of poverty, addiction and homelessness to self-sufficiency.”

Residents, all of whom are male, begin most mornings at 5:30 with chores and other work before heading to a group breakfast. The rest of the morning is spent in group therapy and acudetox, a therapy that uses acupuncture to calm patients recovering from addiction with the intent of reducing cravings.

Afternoons include group addiction meetings and education sessions, where clients learn to better understand their addictions, before 6 p.m. dinner when, about four nights a week, Director Michael Seipp said, volunteers from the community join the residents to help prepare the food and share a meal.

“What you’re doing is you’re saying to them, ‘Hey, I’m a normal person, I’m doing everything the right way, and I’m giving up two hours of my time or three hours of my time because I think you have value as a human being,’” said Seipp of the effects the volunteers have on the residents going through the program. “That begins to rebuild a sense of self-worth.”

This interfaith organization has partnered with congregations including Baltimore Hebrew, Beth Israel, Beth Tfiloh and Chizuk Amuno to operate programs such as CARES, which provides food and financial assistance to the needy in the Govans neighborhood of North Baltimore, the North East Food Pantry, which provides emergency food relief to the city’s Hamilton and Arcadia neighborhoods, and the Harford House, the Micah House and Shelter Plus Care, all of which are designed to help the city’s homeless find stable housing.

With more than 10 branches, there are plenty of opportunities for GEDCO’s partners to help, but Meghan Peterson, GEDCO’s external relations coordinator, says most people are interested in helping with the food pantries.

“People feel that, since they can do direct service there, they’re probably reaching the most people to serve in the community,” she says.

Since its incorporation in 1991 by seven local pastors, GEDCO’s reception in the community has been extremely welcoming, Peterson says.

“We’re all trying to meet the same mission and goals, which is to help build and serve the community,” she says. “I think that’s something we all have in common.”

INNterim House
The INNterim House, a division of the Interim Housing Corporation, provides women and children with a safe place to stay and a nurturing environment to grow and become self-sufficient. The shelter is located in Pikesville, and spaces are reserved only for women with children.

In addition to offering these families a safe and comfortable dwelling, the INNterim House also offers services such as childcare, meals and access to internships and skills classes.

The organization hosts workshops every other Thursday night, in which volunteers host sessions on things such as financial literacy, first aid and childcare.

“You name it, we have a workshop on it,” says Karla Pitchford, office manager at INNterim.

In addition to adult volunteers, the shelter hosts a number of child volunteers through school programs and families who wish to include their children in their community service. The INNterim residents especially enjoy the chance to interact with the youngest volunteers.

“The kids love it,” says Pitchford. “It’s great.”

Jewish Volunteer Connection
In addition to a number of other services the JVC offers throughout the year, the organization will host its 12th annual Community Mitzvah Day on Dec. 25.

Mitzvah Day 2013 will offer participants the opportunity to assemble 1,500 care packages of hats, scarves, toiletries and other winter necessities that will be distributed to those in need in the Baltimore area via local shelters and resource providers. In addition, participants will have access to other local volunteer opportunities.

“This is a great way for [the congregations that have partnered with the JVC] to build community within their congregations as well as to be a platform for service for anybody, whether they’re affiliated with a synagogue or not,” says Ashley Pressman, JVC executive director.

Community Mitzvah Day also allows JVC to introduce participants to some of the ways they can help their community, she says.

“The Jewish community is very generous with time and with money,” says Pressman. “There’s a tremendous enthusiasm for getting involved and for opportunities to really make a tangible difference.”

Our Daily Bread serves 700 meals per day. (David Stuck)

Our Daily Bread serves 700 meals per day.
(David Stuck)

Our Daily Bread
A soup kitchen that boasts 700 meals served per day, Our Daily Bread, a division of Catholic Charities, serves some of the city’s most needy residents.

“You get that fellowship,” says Chris Kelly, about the difference it makes to sit and talk to the men, women and children who visit the kitchen instead of simply providing them with food and shuffling them through the door. Kelly is an associate administrator in the Community Services Division of Associated Catholic Charities of Maryland.

“We could not run our programs without volunteer participation,” says Kelly.

This participation ranges from youth groups hosting fundraisers and food drives to volunteers serving daily breakfasts and lunches to local congregations cooking several days’ worth of casseroles.

Not only do the organization’s clients benefit from the supportive Baltimore — and Jewish Baltimore — community, says Kelly, but the volunteers also benefit.

Many new volunteers underestimate the extent of the need in the community, he says, noting: “For a lot of folks, it’s eye-opening.”