St. Frances Receives Donation To Build Jewish Studies Program

Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy is one step closer to making its Jewish Studies program a permanent part of its overall curriculum.

The private Catholic school, located at 501 E. Chase St., received $200,000 during the 2012-2013 academic year to begin building an endowment for the Hoffberger Chair of Jewish Studies. Until now, the program has been operating for more than a decade, but the status is year-to-year. The endowment will allow the school to make the position a permanent fixture.

Endowing a permanent position costs around $500,000 at St. Frances. With the addition of some other donated funds, the school is still $285,000 short of its goal for the Jewish Studies position, but the donation brings the finish line much closer.

The school received the donation from the Thomas More Project, a Baltimore-based charity that seeks to help at-risk and underprivileged children receive a Catholic education.

“It’s absolutely critical,” said Deacon Curtis Turner of the Jewish program. Turner has been principal of St. Frances for six years.

“We don’t teach Jewish studies as an afterthought,” Turner said. “At St. Frances, instead of just doing the Old Testament of Hebrew Scriptures from a Christian point of view, we actually teach Jewish studies so that our kids get exposure to Hebrew Scriptures from the Jewish point of view.”

All students must take Jewish Studies during their junior year at St. Frances. Also, instead of offering the traditional Spanish or French options, the school offers students the chance to choose between either Hebrew or Spanish class to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

St. Frances Academy is the oldest continuously operating predominantly African-American Catholic high school in the world. The school opened in 1828 with the intent of teaching black children to read the Bible.

“African-Americans and Jews really have a shared history,” Turner said, explaining that Judaism is the foundation for everything the students, most of whom are Christian, believe. “We’re the spiritual little brothers of the Jewish Community.”

Deaf Community’s Concerns Heard

The Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, recently announced a funding initiative that will significantly offset the cost of sign-language interpreters at Jewish communal events.

Jewish Advocates for Deaf Education (JADE) will provide $50 per event toward interpreters’ fees, which typically cost at least $50 per hour with a two-hour minimum, plus travel expenses. In addition, several Jewish sign-language interpreters have agreed to accept $50 per hour with a one-hour minimum and no travel expenses to make this service more affordable for local Jewish agencies.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing members of the Jewish community are encouraged to inquire about the eligibility of CJE-funded interpreters for events taking place at Jewish events in Baltimore, and they must request an interpreter at least one week prior to the event.

“It is important for Jewish organizations and shuls to hire interpreters so that deaf people can participate in community events and feel that they are part of it,” said Tchia Kastor, who is deaf. “If deaf parents feel good in the community, it will influence their children, who will know that the community accepts their parents. They will not feel embarrassed about their parents’ deafness.”

Said Amian Frost Kelemer, associated executive vice president of CJE: “By providing interpreters at Jewish community experiences, we are strengthening our community and opening up previously inaccessible opportunities for Jewish learning and connecting. No Jewish person should ever feel separated from the community.”

Stories Connect Us All


Baltimore storyteller Gail Rosen will feature two of her stories at this year’s event. (Provided)

“When you hear other people’s stories, you realize how unique each person and group is and what we all have in common. When we’re able to walk in each other’s shoes, even for a few minutes, a stranger becomes a friend,” said Susan O’Halloran, organizer of an online storytelling festival, Stories Connect Us All.

Identifying and empathizing with all that we have in common is the bridge connecting 72 stories by 60 professional storytellers from around the world. The entire festival happens on Facebook, through video posts every 30 minutes from Oct. 9 through Oct. 11. The storytellers will be online throughout the festival to dialog with the audience in real time via Facebook chat and postings.

O’Halloran has organized live storytelling events for 20 years and began this festival online “in hopes of reaching an even larger audience with stories that can heal our racial and ethnic divides.”

In 2012, the online festival’s first year, it had a Facebook reach of more than 50,000 people from 16 different countries.

Baltimore storyteller Gail Rosen has two stories in the event. Rosen is well-known for performing “The Story and Poetry of Hilda Stern,” a Holocaust survivor and poet who Rosen met in person and whose life story she recounts to illustrate profound lessons of struggle, hope and the strength of the human spirit. She uses storytelling as a path for transformation and healing.

Rosen’s stories for the online festival are “Ancient History? Do Stories of the Holocaust Really Matter?” and “Who is a Friend? German-Jewish Reconciliation After the Holocaust.” Both stories address her complex friendship with the son of a Holocaust perpetrator. Through the stories, Rosen asks, “Is history just stories that happened before you were born? Does history really matter?”

Rosen discovers that history does matter. You can see Rosen’s stories and all the others at If you visit before the event launches, you can see behind-the-scenes footage. From Oct. 9 through Oct. 11, you can hear the stories straight from their tellers.

UMD, Morgan State Receive Federal Transportation Research Grant

The University of Maryland and Morgan State University are two of seven universities that will split a $2.8 million transit research grant, Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski announced last week.

The Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration grant, for $2,828,200, will fund research into solutions that focus on economic competitiveness. Primarily, the schools will look at reducing traffic congestion, promoting alternative ways to move freight and provide insight into intercity and intermodal travel. UMD will receive the majority of the funds while the other six recipients split the remainder.

“Marylanders spend way too much time stuck in gridlock and waiting on trains,” Senator Cardin said in a statement. “The solutions that will save us time and money are out there and it will be the University of Maryland and Morgan state, who will deliver the results.”

“Smart funding to develop new transportation solutions for our highways and byways, rail and bridges is laying the groundwork for our future,” said Senator Mikulski, who also serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee that funds the Department of Transportation, in a statement. “By investing in cutting-edge research at Maryland’s leading universities, we are standing up for jobs and working to improve the quality of life for all Marylanders.”

Other schools that will join the University of Maryland and Morgan State in the research are Arizona State University, Louisiana State University, North Carolina State University, Old Dominion University and the University of New Orleans. The schools will decide among themselves how the funds will be divided.


BJC Passes Minimum-Wage Policy

The Baltimore Jewish Council passed a policy statement on minimum wage that advocates for a wage above the federal poverty line.

“… The Baltimore Jewish Council supports an equitable minimum wage that enables workers to earn over the federal poverty line, but at the same time does not unduly burden Maryland business,” the statement says.

Jeff Kagan, vice chair of the BJC’s government relations commission, said the resolution passed with flying colors at the organization’s board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1. He said it is an important social justice issue embedded in Judaism.

“We believe that this is an important issue in terms of fairness and equity, which we find in Jewish law, teachings and tradition,” Kagan said.

The policy’s text directly speaks to its Jewish inspiration.

“… Jewish tradition seeks a balance between employees earning their most basic living needs and allowing business to succeed,” the statement says. “When wages fall short of providing for these needs, Jewish values seek to restore a fair balance on the employees’ behalf.”

Kagan said a lot the BJC’s coalition partners, such as the Maryland Interfaith Legislative Committee, the Maryland Alliance for the Poor and welfare advocates, also support an equitable minimum wage. The position is also aligned with Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will be advocating for this in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session.

Kagan said the government relations commission discussed what the wage amount should be, how far above the poverty line the amount should be, the impact on businesses and the impact on minimum-wage workers, but it could not come to an agreement on those issues. There needs to be a balance among those issues, and Kagan said the policy handles that without supporting particular legislation.

“We made it very clear that the policy we put in place today was not taking a position on legislation, because we haven’t even seen the bill,” he said.


Mayor, Police Commissioner Address City Crime

Although crime in Baltimore City has been on the decline for the past three years, homicides are up 6 percent over last year, which deeply concerns Baltimore officials.

BALTIMORE MAYOR - 10.02.2013

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, speaking at a Baltimore Jewish Council meeting, says the city is taking a hard look at crime. Shown here, Rawlings-Blake addresses the community at an earlier date.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts spoke at a Baltimore Jewish Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1 about the triumphs and challenges in keeping illegal guns out of the city, combating violent crime and gang activity and staying ahead of criminal activity.

“All of us know Baltimore deserves to be a safer city, and we know it is an achievable goal,” Rawlings-Blake said.

While there is only one gun store in the city of Baltimore, the city has seized approximately 1,500 guns so far in 2013. Still, the city’s homicide rate is up 6 percent this year, which equates to 10 more homicides than this time last year. In 2011, there were 197 homicides in the city, but that number increased to 217 in 2012. Both numbers are historic lows for the city, and overall crime is still declining.

“We can’t be every place all the time,” Batts

said. “We may not be able to stop the first shooting, but the second, third, fourth, fifth — that is unacceptable.”

Batts was referring to the fact that a lot of the city’s shootings are not isolated incidents; they are often drug- or gang-related, and they are often in retaliation for a previous shooting. When a teenage rapper was shot last month, three related shootings followed, Batts said.

“Bad guys in Baltimore come to work every day, and their career is being criminals,” he said. “They keep on top of things … We need to put them on the defensive.”

With criminals moving around and constantly adjusting to changes in policing, Batts said police need to gather intelligence faster and more efficiently. For 33 years, his police work has involved tracking gangs, and so he is training his officers to identify gang tattoos and graffiti, as well as ways to tell what groups are feuding with each other.

Batts, who traveled to Israel in 2003 to learn about combating terrorism, said he is working to update the police department’s technology and to use technology to quickly gather and disseminate intelligence. When a gang- or drug-related shooting happens, police need to identify the associates of the victim and find out who they are feuding with, He said the force can look to social networks for clues.

The mayor said the city is implementing a comprehensive violence-reduction strategy that addresses violence as a health epidemic and includes elementary and middle school programs, help for offenders and interventions with gang members.

Rikki Spector, District 5 councilwoman, said crime prevention needs to filter down from the

police department to the residents.

“You have to live, work, play and learn in Baltimore,” she said.

With 1.6 million people working in Baltimore but only 640,000 living in the city, there is a disparity in taxes, with the income tax of those who work in the city going to the state and the property tax of those who live in the city going to the city.

While her district, which includes Northwest Baltimore, grows with every population count, she wishes the same was happening in other districts.

“Vitality gives safety,” Spector said.


Jewish Christian?!

100413_j4jThousands of residents from Owings Mills and Reisterstown to as far as Silver Spring received an oversized postcard in the mail earlier this week asking the question, “Is it possible to be both Jewish and Christian?” Prominently juxtaposed to the inquiry were five distinct logos — those of Jews for Judaism, the Baltimore Jewish Council (an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore), ABC/Channel 2, WMAR-TV and the Baltimore Jewish Times. Smaller, and beside those five, was the logo for Israel Restoration Ministries, a Hebrew Christian (i.e. Messianic Jewish) organization.

A strategic partnership? Oh no. It was a hijacking of these brands and a blatant misrepresentation of quotes published by the news sites.

“This has never happened before,” said Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism. “We have definitely been misquoted in outreach campaigns, but this is the first time it has ever been done like this, and especially with other Jewish agency logos being abused, too.”

Rabbi Ron Shulman, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, made clear his organization was not involved in the sending of the card — and neither was the JT.

Responding to the postcard — which included on its backside a message from Tom Cantor of Israel Restoration stating that “it is possible to be both Jewish (outward Jew) and a Christian (inward Jew)” — Rabbi Shulman said, “It suggests we [the Baltimore Jewish Council] are party to a conversation that is not taking place.” He told the JT that one’s beliefs are a personal choice, but that belief in Jesus goes against any normative strand of Judaism.

The card came the day before a study was released by the Pew Research Center that stated 34 percent of U.S. Jews say a person can still be Jewish if he or she believes Jesus was the messiah.

Guggenheim said that while the cards began hitting mailboxes on Monday, she assumes that more cards will drop and that her organization (like the BJC and JT), which received many calls questioning the card, will receive additional concerns from other areas.

Iranian Spy Captured In Israel

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran was arrested on September 11th 2013 in Tel Aviv, this according to a statement released by Israel’s General Security Service (GSS). The man, named Alex Menes, aged 55, was arrested as he tried to leave Israel via Ben Gurian airport.

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran, Ali Mansuri,  was arrested on September 11, 2013.

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran, Ali Mansuri, was arrested on September 11, 2013.

In his interrogation it became apparent that he is an Iranian citizen, born Ali Mansuri, who was sent to Israel on various espionage missions. He lived with his family in Iran until 1980, then moving to Turkey where he established himself as a business man. In 1997 he received a Belgian visa, marrying a native Belgian who he subsequently divorced. During this period he was granted Belgian citizenship, changing his name to Alex Menes, thus obscuring his Iranian identity.

In 2007 he returned to Iran, and broadened his business connections. He remarried, this time to an Iranian woman, and was recruited by the Iranian espionage services in 2012. He was instructed to use his business as a cover for visits in Israel. He was promised vast sums to finance his activities.

Mansuri has previously visited Israel in July 2012 and January 2013 on the request of his Iranian handlers. His last visit began on September 6th. He tried to establish business connections during these visits, presenting himself as a Belgian businessman.

During his arrest he was in the possession of numerous photos from various locations in Israel, several of them of interest to the Iranian intelligence services, including the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Mansuri detailed during his interrogation by the GSS the training he received, the various methods he used to maintain contact with the Iranian intelligence services and his actions in Israel over the past months.


‘Ballots, Babies and Banners of Peace’

Melissa R. Klapper says she  was disheartened by the standard narrative of American history  leaving Jewish women out.

Melissa R. Klapper says she
was disheartened by the standard narrative of American history
leaving Jewish women out.

Melissa R. Klapper is a trained historian of American women with a Ph.D. from Rutgers University. She was disheartened by what she says is “the standard narrative of American history, leaving Jewish women out. Jewish women were recognized at the time of the movements, especially in the peace and birth-control movements, but historians haven’t paid much attention to it.”

That discovery, as well as a passion for research, led to her latest book, “Ballots, Babies and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940” (NYU Press). Klapper, who attended Bais Yaakov School for Girls, speaks at her collegiate alma mater, Goucher College, next month.

Much is known about women in the later labor movement, but Klapper is interested in uncovering women’s involvement during the first wave of feminism. In her book, she focuses on the deep involvement of Jewish women in the early labor, birth-control and suffrage movements. She believes their activism is inherent.

“Jewish women typically grew up in a culture of caring about the community because there were Jews all over the world, and from within Judaism come the ideas about social justice, what today we would call tikkun olam. We’re taught that it’s our job to make the world a better place as a Jew and a woman, and this was a powerful message they grew up with,” she said.

Anti-Semitism was present in the movements, but Jewish women believed the cause was more important than the obstacle.

Klapper, whose parents, Dr. Mitchell and Ferne Klapper, and younger sister, Jennie Fine, still live in Baltimore, conducted her research across the country, accessing primary sources such as Jewish newspapers, National Council of Jewish Women meeting minutes, letters and diaries. The res-ult is the stories of many impassioned, educated and influential women who helped shape the early social and political movements.

“That’s what I love about being a historian, you hear the voices speak to you across the generations,” she said. “One of the things I loved about doing this book is I could feel myself as a link in [the] chain. I was helping connect a legacy of Jewish women who are making this a better world.”

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland she uncovered the stories of several prominent Baltimore Jewish women. One is Sadie Jacobs Crockin, who as a college student wrote an essay that pushed for world peace during the Spanish-American War. Then, as an adult, she became involved in the National Council of Jewish Women and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and she marched in parades and lobbied politicians. Klapper described Crockin’s involvement as the “standard activist Jewish woman, not a radical per se, but it was part of her being to be involved in politics and to advocate.”

“Radical” might better fit Bessie Louise Moses, a 1915 Goucher graduate and a 1922 Hopkins Medical School graduate. Moses was a gynecologist and family planning pioneer. She founded the first Baltimore birth-control clinic in 1927 and later became nationally known for her work in family planning and advocacy.

Klapper was surprised to find out “how many first-generation birth-control doctors were Jewish. In almost any city you could think of, most of the women who ran them were Jewish. And the National Council of Jewish Women was radical at the time, too, something nobody knew about, not even them.”

She’s fascinated with the late 19th century and early 20th century because it was “a period of such transformation of life” so her next book will focus on the 20th-century social history of ballet class in America and the history of gender in childhood and education.

Melissa R. Klapper will speak at Goucher College on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Batza Room of the Athenaeum. The event is free, but tickets must be reserved at or by calling 410-337-6333. Books will be available for sale and signing.

An audio interview with Melissa R. Klapper about her new book can be found here.

An Address In 21117

Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen, “Rabbi K,” says he thinks the Jews in  Owings Mills are searching for a deeper spiritual connection.  (David Stuck)

Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen, “Rabbi K,” says he thinks the Jews in Owings Mills are searching for a deeper spiritual connection.
(David Stuck)

It is a big sacrifice for an Orthodox family — especially one with five children — to live outside of a community with an eruv, an enclosure that allows one to carry items from inside his or her home around the neighborhood on Shabbat.

It is likewise challenging for a frum family to raise its children in an area of the community where there are few other — if any — shomer Shabbat [Shabbat observant] children with whom they can play.

But this is a sacrifice that Rabbi Nochum and Chanie Katsenelenbogen not only are willing to make, but one of which they are today tremendously proud. About eight years since they started Chabad Center in Owings Mills, they completed a several-thousand-square-foot expansion of the facility, located at 11299 Owings Mills Blvd. The reason, said Rabbi K, as he is affectionately known: “The center was bursting at its seams.”

At Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services a few weeks ago, more than 650 people attended — many of them families with young children.

“Chabad of Owings Mills is the go-to source for traditional Judaism in the area,” said Rabbi K. “There was an unmet need for a vibrant and diverse traditional Jewish community in Owings Mills. We were able to accommodate that.”

The center will celebrate its growth on Oct. 6 with a special event, featuring Rabbi Dr. David Nesenoff, who is best known for his interview with Helen Thomas. Rabbi Nesenoff asked Thomas about Israel in an interview that took place on the White House lawn. Her answer, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” and to “go home” to Poland and Germany, revealed a side of Thomas that haunted her until her death.

And while attendees are being riveted by the speaker, they will also be enjoying the new facilities. How did an Orthodox synagogue targeted to less observant congregants — that doesn’t charge a membership fee — grow so quickly and so tremendously?

Rabbi K said he thinks it is because Chabad is nonjudgmental.

“We don’t judge anyone. Our doors are open to any and every Jew of all levels of observance. … We don’t question. All are welcome to celebrate, learn and pray and socialize,” he said.

But those who are close with Rabbi K — his followers — say the rabbi and his wife have more to do with the location’s growth that anything else. Bruce E. Kauffman, for example, said Rabbi and Chanie K “inspired me” and that they are “such warm people.”

What is inspiring is not just that they run a Sunday school for 30 children — one that kids want to attend — or that they are certified instructors for the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and provide classes in Jewish subjects for 30 or 40 adults each semester. It is not their Passover Seder, which brings in more than 100 people. It is not Chanukah on Ice. It is that Rabbi K “doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk,” said Kauffman. “He extends himself at all times for his fellow Jew, and he is really committed to helping people who are not affiliated reconnect with Judaism. … He accepts you for who you are and has tremendous patience. There is no pressure. You go at your own level and how you feel comfortable, and he helps get you where you want to go.”

Noted Richard Nudelman of Owings Mills, “Rabbi K and Chanie are really a beacon to the community in Owings Mills. [The Chabad Center] is not just a shul, it’s not just a religious school. It is a warm, welcoming environment to Jews of all degrees of knowledge”

Jonathan Welfeld expressed similar sentiments. He met Rabbi K eight years ago and has grown his family with the center. He said he and his wife were looking for something to help connect their family to Judaism as they raised their then young children.

“He clued my kids in. He lit their souls,” said Welfeld. Today, his kids attend Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

Rabbi K, who moved to the United States from England in 1999 and married in 2003, said he thinks the market was ripe — and still is — in Owings Mills. He told the JT that “people are looking for more meaning in their lives, more spirituality. Children are known to ask good questions and parents don’t always have great answers. They realize they need to be more involved.”

He said, “There are thousands of Jews in Owings Mills. We will not rest until we reach every single one.”

Who Lives In Owings Mills?
• Owings Mills has 12,100 Jewish persons in 5,300 Jewish households
• Combined, the Owings Mills/Reisterstown areas have essentially the same number of Jewish households today as in 1999 but fewer Jewish persons (22,800 in 1999; 19,100 in 2010)
• Some 23 percent of the Jews living in Owings Mills are under the age of 18
Source: 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study

The Jewish community is invited to celebrate the expansion of the Chabad Center in Owings Mills
Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Special guest: Rabbi Dr. David Nesenoff