Counting the Bombshells in Pew Israel Study

pew

There was more than one bombshell in the Pew Research Center’s “Israel’s Religiously Divided Society,” a study  released this month. The first was the finding that 48 percent of Jewish Israelis support  “expulsion and transfer of Arabs from Israel.”

But maybe it was only a bombshell in the United States. In its exploration of Israel’s  religious identities, the study describes a very different  Judaism than the American variety, which Pew explored in its 2013 “Portrait of Jewish Americans.” The two communities are similar enough for each to support the other but different enough for the  new study to cause a blow to American Jewish expectations.

Taken together, the two Pew studies cover 80 percent of world Jewry. The Israel survey found that 40 percent of the country’s Jews call themselves chiloni, or secular; 23 percent say they are masorti, or traditional; 10 percent are dati, or Orthodox; and 8 percent are Haredi Orthodox.

But the English translations do not fully explain the meaning of the Hebrew words. And that can lead to surprises for an American reader.

By American standards, Israel, even with its large secular population, is a very religious place. Fifty-six percent of  Israeli Jews versus 23 percent of American Jews say they  always light Shabbat and holiday candles; 60 percent versus 40 percent say they fasted last Yom Kippur; and 63 percent versus 22 percent say they keep kosher at home.

Since the study’s release,  analysts have been trying to interpret how nearly half of Israeli Jews can favor an  Israel without its Arab  citizens — if that’s what  they were saying.

 

When the Pew study of Jewish Americans was released, critics noted how 73 percent  of American Jews said that  remembering the Holocaust was an important element of their Jewish identity. Critics said this showed how limited American Judaism is.

But 65 percent of Israelis also said that remembering the Holocaust was an important part of their identity.

Other surprises concerned Israel’s long-term problems.

Thirty-eight percent of  Israelis said security was their most crucial issue. But 39 percent said economics was Israel’s greatest long-term problem. By contrast, 66 percent of American Jews said security was Israel’s biggest problem. But they completely overlooked the high cost of living and income disparity that caused hundreds of thousands to take to the streets in 2011.

A panel discussion at the Pew Research Center in Washington on March 17 tried to make sense of these findings.

One issue is each nation’s conception of pluralism.

While the American concept of pluralism is that among a variety of religious approaches no one way is more important than another, “Israeli pluralism has never considered an alternative religious ideology to Orthodoxy as worthy,” said Steven M. Cohen, research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College.

Added Joy Levitt, executive director of JCC Manhattan; “For a lot of chiloni Israelis, religion is the government.  It’s the state.”

And for them, the state-sponsored Judaism is Orthodoxy. Asked why the average Israeli would want to stop another  Israeli from being married by a non-Orthodox rabbi — only the Orthodox rabbinate has state-sanctioned authority to intervene in personal status questions among Jews in Israel — Shmuel Rosner, a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem, said, “Because they don’t want to import the American split into streams [of Reform, Conservative,  Orthodox, etc.]. There is an advantage to having one stream that everyone follows or ignores. They do not want to add to the splits in Israel.”

Compared with Israel, American Jews “have a huge stake” in the separation of  religion and state because they are a minority.

When it comes to how each society views the Holocaust, Rosner noted that Israel was founded to counter Jewish helplessness in the diaspora. Nevertheless, Holocaust remembrance is a central tenet of  Israeli life.

“It’s almost impossible for a Jew to say that the Holocaust isn’t important,” he said. “Israel is obsessed with the Holocaust. Almost all high schoolers visit death camps in Poland.”

Cohen said Israel has the view that “the entire world is against us. While in America, Jews are told that we are the most loved people in the country.”

The lack of American interest in Israel’s economic situation is a significant blind spot, said Levitt. “It troubles me that American Jews have so little understanding of Israeli’s economic troubles. It’s a piece of data that American Jewish policymakers should take  notice of.”

Since the first headlines accompanied the study’s release, analysts have been trying to interpret how nearly half of  Israeli Jews can favor an Israel without its Arab citizens — if that’s what they were saying. For Rosner, the finding was more likely Israeli Jews blowing off steam or a cultural tic. The survey was taken between October 2014 and May 2015 after Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza and before the start of the so-called Knife Intifada.

“I don’t think we should be hysterical about it,” Rosner said, adding that in 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had reached the Oslo Accords with the PLO, said, “It would have been great if Gaza had drowned in the Mediterranean.”

“So not just the [Israeli] right feels a natural sentiment that one feels toward an enemy,” Rosner explained. “It does not mean Jewish Israelis will support an actual plan. But it’s a warning sign about the right way to treat a fellow citizen.”

But Cohen said the finding — along with another in which 79 percent said Jewish Israelis deserve preferential treatment — is “consistent with public policy.”

“So much more money is spent on Jewish schools than on Arab schools,” Cohen said. “It reflects decades of discrimination by the Jewish majority. It reflects a policy of discrimination not warranted by the security needs of Israel, the country that I love.”

dholzel@midatlanticmedia.com

‘Beyond Chicken Soup’ JMM’s newest exhibit touts Jews’ contribution to medicine, health

With a collection of Jewish medical writings going back to the sixth century, a view into the back of a real ambulance and a series of interactive screens aimed at furthering a conversation about health care, the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s newest exhibit provides a tour of the Jewish physician’s journey in the United States.

“Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America,” which opened earlier last month and runs until Jan. 16, 2017, walks the visitor through a half-dozen settings named for locations typically associated with the health care field.

‘Beyond Chicken Soup'

The first stop is the “university” that focuses heavily on Baltimore’s prominent Friedenwald family.

Dr. Harry Friedenwald, son of Baltimore doctor Aaron Friedenwald, collected a series of ancient manuscripts containing the earliest Jewish medical teachings and donated them to the National Library of Israel in 1948. He also translated them into modern English.

The room, set up to re-create Friedenwald’s study, contains the manuscripts as well as other mementos such an invitation to a lecture he gave in 1943 in Gilman Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

The exhibit is not to serve as a hall of fame, said Deborah Cardin, the museum’s director for programs and development. “But we do think being in Baltimore, there are a number of individuals who have contributed so much to medical advancement.”

The visitor then enters the “medical school” section that focuses on the struggles that Jewish students faced when applying for and entering medical school in the early part of the 20th century. This included quotas limiting the number of Jews admitted to doctoral programs across the country.

To combat the quota discrimination issue, Rabbi Morris Lazaron of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, and Baltimore Jewish Council president Leon Sachs contacted universities in Wisconsin, Arkansas and Chicago among other places asking for data on Jewish admissions.

“[Lazaron] sent letters to medical school deans asking for very specific information about how many Jewish students had applied, how many Jewish students were admitted and whether or not Jews were able to find internships in Christian hospitals,” Cardin said.

As can be seen in the letters that have been reproduced, most of the deans replied to Lazaron with the corresponding data backing up his assertion, although Cardin said he received a couple of angry responses suggesting Jewish students were “morally inferior” to Christians.

Cardin explained that education was a form of currency for Jewish immigrant families settling in the United States in the early 1900s, which partially accounts for the early influence of Jewish doctors in Baltimore.

“This was also a time when a medical education was part of the American dream, and that’s why you find this close association with Jews and medicine, and it becomes part of our aspiration to become fully accepted as American citizens,” she said.

The struggle among Jews to rise through the ranks in the medical community can also be seen in the “hospital” section that illustrates the push for a Jewish hospital during a time when hospitals of other faiths were unwelcoming toward Jews.

“In the mid-1800s prior to the establishment of Jewish hospitals, when Jewish patients went to Christian hospitals, they often found themselves at the mercy of a staff that was interested in converting them,” Cardin said. “And so there was a real desire to pull together and establish hospitals within the Jewish community and take care of itself.”

This led to the establishment of the Hebrew Hospital and Asylum in 1868, which later expanded to include non-Jewish patients and was renamed Sinai Hospital.

Among the highlights of this part of the exhibit is the back door of a real ambulance that the museum purchased on eBay and incorporated into the scenery.

“They took a slice off the back and sold the rest for scrap,” museum executive director Marvin Pinkert said.

The ambulance is just one of a variety of artifacts saturating the exhibit that illustrate the journey of the medical profession, including a violin that Dr. Morris Abramovitz played during college to earn money for tuition.

Abramovitz, famous for discovering a method of injecting multiple medications at one time into the body, emigrated from Lithuania in 1901 and opened a practice in East Baltimore serving the immigrant and sailor populations. The “doctor’s office” portion of the exhibit includes a replica of his workspace with a desk, chair, examining table and a scale that was donated by the Davidov family.

Howard Davidov, a retired Baltimore radiologist whose father Nathan was a general practitioner for 45 years, said when he heard the museum would be putting an exhibit together on Jews in medicine he felt his father “ought to be in it.”

“To me, medicine was his life,” said Davidov, one of several Jewish doctors in Baltimore who contributed either funds or artifacts to the exhibit. “He treated patients whether they could pay or not pay. If he made a diagnosis, that was the diagnosis, and this was before CT and ultrasound and all that sort of stuff.”

Nathan Davidov graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1920 and later completed a residency at Johns Hopkins before opening an office on Eastern Avenue near the Patterson Theater. (His diploma can be seen in the exhibit hanging near Abramovitz’s office). Davidov said his father enjoyed medicine from an academic standpoint but was also devoted to his patients.

“He loved taking care of people, he loved helping people, and the intellectual puzzle of the diagnosis was something he really liked,” he said. “If he got a call in the middle of the night, he would drive to Highlandtown and see patients. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

In the “pharmacy” section, visitors can see and smell a number of remedies, such as cinnamon and mace, that were once used to treat patients. Much of this portion of the exhibit was made possible by pharmacists Neil and Dixie Leikach, who have owned Catonsville Pharmacy since 1999. Dixie Leikach contributed an oral history along with several artifacts from the Maryland Pharmacists Association for which she briefly served as interim executive director.

Among Dixie Leikach’s contributions is a photo of her husband at work in Catonsville Pharmacy. Neil’s father, Henry, was also a pharmacist and worked in the Klotzman Drugstore in downtown Baltimore, which, she said, is a point of pride for him.

Dixie Leikach said, “When somebody decides to do the same thing as their parents, it’s a proud moment.”

While most of “Beyond Chicken Soup” showcases how Jews have advanced within the medical fields through the last two centuries, it also deals with current ethical debates about health care within the public discourse. Visitors are invited to answer questions on interactive displays such as, “Should you be able to choose your doctor based on their religion?” and “Must a doctor speak your language?” The answer choice prompts a pie chart of the cumulative results from all the other visitors.

“One of the inspirations for the exhibit was that there are so many contemporary conversations around health care, so we came up with the solution of embedding content into the exhibit through these touchscreens,” Cardin said.

Aside from the displays, there are also several activities for children such as a dress-up section, where you can put on a white coat, and a matching activity called “It’s all Greek to me,” where visitors are asked to identify a Greek term with the corresponding disease in English.

In the final “fitness center” section, a large wheel called “What’s On Your Plate” is mounted on the wall, and spinning it allows visitors to see what foods people in the United States ate during each decade from the 1900s to the 1990s. The foods progress from creamed cabbage and mashed potatoes eventually to a fresh-looking piece of chicken with vegetables.

“In 1900, doctors advised to steer clear of spicy foods,” Cardin said. “The idea of eating a very bland meal was very popular.”

The amount of detailed information and activities was too much for Davidov to absorb in one visit, and he has since been back several times. He recommends taking your time while there.

“It’s just a very well done exhibit that everybody should go see,” he said.

The exhibit concludes with a slideshow of people of all ages and nationalities in the medical field at work, which Cardin said demonstrates the progress that has been made in health care.

“Is the Jewish doctor still a stereotype that’s really prevalent today? What we come up with is the changing face of medicine,” Cardin said. “And if you look at what the medical field looks like today, it’s a very different place than it was a century ago.”

 

‘Beyond Chicken Soup:
Jews and Medicine in America’

Through Jan. 16, 2017

Jewish Museum of Maryland
15 Lloyd St., Baltimore

For more information: 410-732-6400 or jewishmusuemmd.org

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

US-Israel Relationship May Be ‘Doomed to Succeed’

Dennis Ross (provided)

Dennis Ross (provided)

Ambassador Dennis Ross, who has served as a diplomat in the Middle East in several presidential administrations, played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East. He will speak about his new book “Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama” at Beth El Congregation on April 3.

[“Ross] has been an important figure in terms of the American-Israeli relationship over the last decade to 15 years and also an important player in the various attempts at negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” said Beth El Rabbi Steven Schwartz.

The event is sponsored by Beth El Congregation, the Mark G. Loeb Center for Lifelong Learning, Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Chizuk Amuno Congregation, the Baltimore Zionist District, the Jewish  National Fund and Israel Bonds.

Ross, who serves as the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow and counselor at The Washington Institute, focused his book on the attitudes and policies toward Israel by each U.S. president.

“[Barack] Obama represents one of five presidents who believed differencing with Israel will gain [favor] with Arabs, and it never did,” said Ross.

This difference distinguishes Obama from former president Bill Clinton, who, according to Ross, is the only president who didn’t allow the constituency in the national security apparatus that believed Israel was a problem to have influence. Ross said this could foreshadow what a Hillary Clinton administration may look like.

“I think [Hillary Clinton’s] instincts are closer to her husband’s on Israel than President Obama,” said Ross. “The key is that Bill Clinton very much  believed that we were Israel’s only friend, and as a result, we should not create a public wedge between us and Israel. … To do that would give encouragement to Israel’s enemies.”

Despite this, Ross believes Obama’s support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a demonstration of history repeating itself, where, although a president may have a difference of opinion with Israel, he never abandons it as an ally.

“[Obama is] going to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding,” said Ross, adding that former President George W. Bush negotiated  a 10-year memorandum of  understanding in 2007. “This is 10 years of assistance to the  Israelis… and Obama is clearly negotiating an increase in what will be provided. It may not be everything [the  Israelis] want, but it’s more than what they are getting.”

Schwartz said he doesn’t think the notion that Obama is “ready to throw Israel under the bus” is true, but he said the distance that the president has displayed with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on various policies is what has many concerned.

When asked to reflect on his time as a diplomat and how it has shaped his own views of Israel, Ross focused on the weight placed on the shoulders of Israel’s leaders.

“I was dealing with Israeli leaders making historic decisions, and they had history on their shoulders,” said Ross. “Seeing that sense of responsibility to history and what it takes to confront history, I think that affected how I understood some of the choices Israeli leaders had to make. [It’s] not just about what are the threats today, but also 10 or 15 years down the line.”

Schwartz added that the West often has a very different perspective on any given issue compared with the Middle East. The perspective that a Western diplomat brings may not always be the correct one.

“You could probably argue [Israel is] right in the middle of it, so they are a little more accurate in terms of the lens they are using,” said Schwartz.

This difference in perspective is something Ross understands well.

“I have always had the view that Israel lives in a tough neighborhood, and if anything, it’s not just being aware it’s a tough neighborhood,” he said, “but also how Israel perceives that neighborhood.”


 

An Insider’s Briefing with  Ambassador  Dennis Ross
Beth El Congregation,  April 3, 7 p.m.
8101 Park Heights Ave., Pikesville
General admission is  $20 advance, $25 at door
RSVP by March 28  to Lori Downing  at lori@bethelbalto.com  or 410-484-0411.

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Pesach vs. Politics

Politics and Passover will both be high priorities for Maryland Jews next month. But what happens when they overlap? Maryland’s primary election is April 26, which happens to be during the  intermediate days of Passover, when many Jews are out of town for the holiday.

But a voter need not be present on April 26 to cast a ballot. Early voting is available April 14-21, with voting sites in every county in the state, including eight in Montgomery County and 13 in Baltimore County and City.

If people want to vote, the fact that it’s on Passover should be no hindrance to them voting. — Art Abramson, Baltimore Jewish  Council executive director

In addition, voters may request absentee ballots. The deadline to request one is April 19.

About 20 percent of the Jewish community will be gone on April 26, said Ron Halber,  executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, which is trying to get the word out.

“Because people are not used to voting in April, we know we need to put some effort and resources into getting people out to vote,” Halber said.

Halber said his agency’s  executive committee has not decided how much money it will spend on a get-out-the-vote effort, but it will involve a combination of emails, paid TV public service announcements and paper flyers.

He said the Jewish community makes up 10-15 percent of the Maryland electorate, and loyal voters are often “bombarded with literature.” But to reach a wider audience, the JCRC will target Jewish centers such as synagogues and kosher markets in Montgomery County.

“The reality is that people know that there’s a presidential [primary] because they’re  focused on Trump. But they don’t know when it is. Our job in the Jewish community is to remind the entire community of a civic obligation,” Halber said.

In Baltimore, similar efforts are underway with the Baltimore Jewish Council, which is likely to begin targeting the community with public service announcements and emails, said executive director Art Abramson.

“If people want to vote, the fact that it’s on Passover should be no hindrance to them voting,” he said.

Abramson said every year the BJC works with the state to make sure that there are ample early voting days in order to accommodate members of the Jewish community in the event an election falls on a holiday. He recalled once again bringing this to the state’s attention last year after community members made several inquiries to him about the conflict.

“I was in Annapolis with our government relations director at the time, Cailey Locklair Tolle, and I got a call from the governor’s office asking if we were available, and we turned right around and had a meeting,” he said, adding that they and the legislature were “extremely accommodating” in making sure there were enough early voting days.

Baltimore City District 5 Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, who has been in office for almost 40 years, said Baltimore City used to vote in a stand-alone election in the fall during  non-presidential years, but this resulted in turnouts around  18 percent.

“Even though all politics are local, it really wasn’t,” she said.

Spector was involved in the effort a few years ago to change the timing of city elections to  coincide with presidential years. For the past month she has been campaigning for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is running for outgoing Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s (D-Md.) seat and waging her own get-out-the-vote effort in the process.

“I’m always making a point about the primary date to make sure that you do exercise that responsibility,” she said. “I do a lot of reaching out to people in senior buildings and in the high rises.”

To see where and how to vote early or to request an absentee ballot, go to elections. state.md.us/voting.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Baltimore County to Tackle Hunger in Schools

(istockphoto.com/SolStock)

(istockphoto.com/SolStock)

Although there are programs in place to ensure that hungry students have food to eat at school, Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond has learned that there are still exceptions.

She recently learned of the problem from retired friends who had been volunteering in school cafeterias.

“They said kids are falling through the cracks where  papers aren’t filled out for whatever reason. We don’t know if some kids are embarrassed and don’t get the meal. They said kids are hungry, and this was very, very obvious to them,” she said. “Like many people, I was guilty of thinking this doesn’t happen in  Baltimore County.”

Almond, who was recently elected chair of the council, sponsored a legislative package to set up a task force to look at the issue of hunger in Baltimore County schools and implement a Community Eligibility Pilot Program for the 2016-2017 school year.

The 18-member Food Policy Task Force is working with Baltimore County Public Schools on the pilot program and will also map areas of the county where food access  issues exist, look into healthy food retail, study local food production and food and farm policies, spearhead food education and anti-hunger initiatives and identify food access issues for at-risk populations. The two-year task force will also recommend whether or not  a permanent Food Policy Council is necessary.

Like many people,  I was guilty of thinking this doesn’t happen in Baltimore County. — Council woman Vicki Almond

 

The pilot program is possible through the Community Eligibility Provision of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which allows schools with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, eliminating paperwork to determine  eligibility by household.

“That’s federal money that will feed any child that’s  hungry for breakfast and lunch,” Almond reiterated.

The task force, which met Wednesday for the first time, consists of one member  appointed by each of the seven councilpersons, a member  appointed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, an appointee of the Baltimore County PTA Council and members from the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the Board of Education, the business community, a food/hunger nonprofit, the agricultural  industry, a grocer, the Department of Health and Human Services, Maryland Hunger Solutions and the Maryland Food Bank.

Lynne Kahn, the nonprofit representative, is founder and executive director of the Baltimore Hunger Project. Her  organization provides weekend food packs for 61 kids who  are on free and reduced  meal plans at three schools — Lyons Mill and Church Lane elementary schools in Baltimore County and Fallstaff Elementary in the city. A fourth school  will be added in the next school year.

In some ways, Kahn said, the city offers more services to its hungry students, and she’d like to see the county catch up.

“The percentage of students on free and reduced meals is increasing and not decreasing, and there’s so many services that could be offered,” she said, adding that there are sources of funding and ways to feed hungry kids in the summer.

Kahn said the families who have hungry students are hardworking, not down on their luck.

“I would say it’s families who are working two and three jobs just to put food on the table,” she said. “I don’t think it should be like this in a county, in a state, in country as wealthy as we are.”

As for Almond, she hopes the task force will bring the issue forward as well as find some solutions.

“I think it’s some of the best legislation I’ve done,” she said, “and I think if we see some  results from it, that’d be huge.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

30 Dead in Brussels Attacks; Jewish Schools Locked Down

Shattered windows at Zaventem Airport show the devastation caused by a suicide bomber. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire via ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Shattered windows at Zaventem Airport show the devastation caused by a suicide bomber. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire via ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Jewish schools and other  institutions in Antwerp and Brussels went into lockdown following attacks in Belgium that killed at least 30 people at the main airport and in the metro in Brussels.

At least 10 people were killed in the attack Tuesday morning at Zaventem Airport, according to the online edition of the Le Soir daily. Officials said a suicide bomber detonated the deadly charge.

About an hour later, another 20 people died in an explosion at a metro station in central Brussels, according to the daily. Several explosions were heard near the Maelbeek  District, not far from the headquarters of the European Union.

Dozens were injured in both attacks.

Police advised civilians to remain indoors. Public transportation and flights to and from Zaventem were suspended.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it was in response to Belgium’s participation in the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the group.

Among the wounded was an Israeli citizen who resides in Antwerp and was in Brussels for a wedding, according to Rabbi Pinchas Kornfeld, a community leader from Antwerp. He sustained injuries to his legs but is not in life-threatening condition, Kornfeld said.

Another Jewish person was moderately wounded, according to Samuel Markowitz, a paramedic for Hatzoloh, a local Jewish emergency services  organization. Several dozen Jews were among the hundreds of passengers who were evacuated to a safe area near the airport, he added in an interview with the Joods Actueel Jewish monthly.

Shortly after the attacks, the Antwerp World Diamond Center canceled a Purim party it planned for tomorrow “out of respect for the victims and their families,” the center’s CEO, Ari Epstein, told Joods Actueel. Another Purim party by the European Jewish Association was canceled in Brussels, the group’s director, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said.

The airport attack occurred at 8 a.m. near the American Airlines desk, according to the online edition of Joods Actueel. Kornfeld said many Jewish passengers were traveling between Antwerp, which has a large Haredi Orthodox community, and New York.

“It was the right time and place to produce many Jewish casualties,” he said.

Le Soir reported that two explosions ripped through the airport. A federal prosecutor said at least one of the explosions came from a suicide bomber’s explosive vest.

Recess was canceled at dozens of Jewish schools in Antwerp, and children were instructed to stay inside the buildings, Kornfeld said. Shortly thereafter, similar  instructions went out from the Belgian government’s crisis center to all of the country’s schools. University students were instructed to refrain from coming to campus.

Witnesses told Joods Actueel that at the airport they heard shouts in Arabic, gunshots and a massive explosion that tore through the ceiling and produced a thick cloud of white smoke and dust, as  hundreds of people fled from buildings there.

Hoffberger Scholar to Address Torah Canonization

Michael Satlow (Provided)

Michael Satlow (Provided)

Michael Satlow, a professor of Judaic and religious studies at Brown University for 14 years, recently authored “How the Bible Became Holy,” which questions preconceptions about the Torah that some take for granted as truth.

“[Satlow’s] most recent work is revolutionary because it deals with the canonization of the Torah and the Bible  itself,” said Temple Oheb Shalom Rabbi Steven Fink. “We’ve all been taught that the Torah was brought back from Babylonia and it became the constitution of the Jewish people. Satlow’s work shows that isn’t the case.”

Satlow will present at Temple Emanuel, Temple Oheb Shalom, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Har Sinai Congregation from April 1 to April 3 as a part of the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Study’s Scholar-in-Residence weekend.

Past scholars-in-residence include Reuvein Firestone,  co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement; biblical scholar Dr. Richard Elliot Friedman; Rabbi Daniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem; and Kabbalah scholar Daniel Matt.

“We like to bring in intellectually stimulating presenters who are going to challenge us in ways that we may not have anticipated about our own Jewish selves,” said Rabbi  Benjamin Sharff of Har Sinai Congregation.

I think this kind  of study opens one up and makes them more creative and able to see things someone wouldn’t have been able  to see. — Michael Satlow, author and professor of Judaic and religious studies at Brown University

Satlow’s book was initially inspired by a podcast he created that followed early Jewish history, where Judaism begins to change from a sacrifice-centered religion to a text-center religion based around the text that would later become the Bible.

“When I began to write the book and when I was doing the research, that narrative didn’t make sense anymore,” said Satlow. “How does any text gain authority in a world in which people can’t read? That was the obvious question but one I didn’t think about.”

Satlow said the short answer is that many different groups gave varying levels of authority to the Torah over time, but there was never a large group of people giving the same authority up until the earliest groups of rabbis.

While he recognizes some have differing opinions, Satlow thinks “most Jews did not see the Torah as our constitution” during the second Temple  period (520 B.C.E to 70 C.E.).

“It’s a very interesting topic from both a historical perspective and a Jewish perspective,” said Sharff. “We like to believe that the [Torah] was given to Moses at Mount Sinai, and many of us believe that, but we also see it as an evolutionary text. It took awhile for people to view it as the sacred canonical literature that it is viewed as today.”

Satlow, who began college as a biochemistry major, said studying religion initially helped him question certain things that he took for granted. By looking at the past and understanding the differences in the ways people lived, it made him rethink how he sees himself.

He hopes that people who listen to his presentation begin to question previous assumptions they’ve had and gain a new perspective on what they know about Jewish history. He also hopes people differentiate the authority that comes from [reading and interpreting] text and the authority that comes from experience.

“I think this kind of study opens one up and makes them more creative and able to see things someone wouldn’t have been able to see,” said Satlow. “[It’s the] same kind of thing as going overseas and seeing different cultures. [It] generally enriches the human experience.”

Said Sharff, “I have a feeling someone in the congregation might pose the question: If this is how [the Torah] became holy and it was written for an audience at a time, why should it still matter, why should it still speak to me?”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Foundry Row Announces New Tenants

Foundry Row Front Elevation as depicted in 2013. (File photo)

Foundry Row Front Elevation as depicted in 2013. (File photo)

Developers of forthcoming Owings Mills center Foundry Row, which will open in the fall and be anchored by Wegmans,  announced 11 new tenants.

The $140 million, 50-acre development, situated on Reisterstown Road at the former site of a Solo Cup factory, will also feature Bar Louie, an American restaurant with cocktails and microbrews; Mission BBQ; La-Z-Boy; Foundry Row Wine & Spirits; Xfinity; Massage Envy; Sleep Number; Mani Luxe, a salon; Chipotle, Hair Cuttery and Floyd’s 99 Barbershop.

“Foundry Row is 88 percent leased and bringing great new amenities to Owings Mills,” said Brian Gibbons, chairman and CEO of developer Greenberg Gibbons. “It’s an exciting time as we run full steam ahead toward our opening this fall.”

These tenants and the 130,000-square-foot Wegmans will also be joined by LA Fitness, DSW, Ulta Beauty, Bagby Pizza, Panera Bread, Zoe’s Kitchen, Smashburger, Nally Fresh and LifeBridge Health.

You Should Know … Philip Chorney

Philip Chorney (Jordan August Photography)

Philip Chorney (Jordan August Photography)

Philip Chorney, 31, was born and raised in the Reisterstown-Owings Mills area. He attended high school at the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science and was a lifeguard at the Jewish Community Center. So, he’s a hometown boy.

He discovered bluegrass music thanks to his high school girlfriend’s family. Now, he is one of the main organizers for the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. This year, its fourth, will be April 30 at Druid Hill Park. Its come a long way since its humble  beginnings as a weekly, jam session on his front porch.

The JT caught up with Chorney—by day, a senior digital marketing manager for Next Day Blinds — to learn more about the festival, bluegrass music and his new baby girl.

How did you get interested in bluegrass?
A couple ways. [When] I was in high school, my girlfriend’s family flew us up to Canada —and this isn’t strictly bluegrass, but has bluegrass overtones — and we saw John Prine with Lyle Lovett and Mary Chapin Carpenter. So, listening to John Prine, listening to his singer-songwriter style, led me to that kind of Americana/folk stuff. That becomes a very easy segue into bluegrass.

And bluegrass has a story to tell, you know? It tells the story of heartache and struggle and success and, really, things that are authentic. Bluegrass is a very authentic form of music. And to me, that’s what makes it so accessible.

Describe the festival for those who aren’t familiar with bluegrass.
It’s a folk and bluegrass festival, with overtones of all sorts of  music, but I’d say it’s less about the music — don’t get me wrong, the music is top-notch — but people come for the people. They come to have a family-friendly day in a beautiful atmosphere. There’s yoga, craft food, craft beer, arts and crafts, hula-hoops and all sorts of things that make it an event.

The music’s there, the music’s phenomenal. There are a lot of people there obsessed with the music. But there’s also a lot of families because it’s just a great day. [The adults] can adult, while the kids can kid.

What are your favorite live music venues in Baltimore?
The 8X10. It’s my favorite. I used to work there. [Owners] Abigail [Janssens] and Brian [Shupe] are the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

You just had a baby girl!
Yes! Thank you. Tali Eve.

Are you going to make her a bluegrass fan?
Oh I hope so. I’d love for her to play. My wife is very musical, I’m not. Her grandmother — my wife’s mother — is a cantor [and] my wife learned to play the guitar at the youngest of ages.

What are you most excited about for the festival?
This year is the first year we’re launching the bluegrass academy — we’re calling it Acoustic U (Acoustic University). Every year, we have a “pickin’ circle” hosted by the Baltimore Bluegrass Meetup Group, and this year they’re going to host that same jam circle, but throughout the day, we’ll have formal workshops from artists at the festival who will teach 30-minute micro-lessons for anyone, free. They just come in with their instrument. It gives a lot of fans the opportunity to have an interaction with the artist, live and in person. I’m really excited about that. I think it adds a whole new  dimension to the festival.

What else would you say sets this year apart?
Obviously, [the headliner] Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder. He’s an  incredible, timeless artist who’s kind of transcended the genre. I’m really, really excited about that aspect of it.

What’s interesting is that the festival occurred last year in the midst of all [the unrest], and it was kind of like a bubble of peace and serenity. We want to create an environment where anyone is welcome. That’s what’s most important. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. You’re welcome at the festival because you enjoy music and you enjoy being with friends and family. To me, that’s what music does. It brings people together. And I think bluegrass, more than anything, is a genre that can do that.

hjohnson@midatlanticmedia.com

Hitler’s Personal Copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ Sells for $20K

One of Hitler’s personal copies of “Mein Kampf.” (provided)

One of Hitler’s personal copies of “Mein Kampf.” (provided)

A Maryland auction house sold one of Adolf Hitler’s personal copies of “Mein Kampf” for $20,655 on Friday, March 18.

The book, which lays out Hitler’s manifesto, was sold by Chesapeake City-based Alexander Historical Auctions to an American buyer.  No other information about the buyer was available.

“It’s a pretty powerful relic, and I’ve had some pretty awful stuff,” said Bill Panagopulos, the company’s owner and auctioneer. “It is not a commercially available copy of ‘Mein Kampf.’”

The front flyleaf, the book’s blank front page, bears the signatures of 11 members of the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry, who were among the first to get into Munich, where the Nazi Party’s headquarters were located and Hitler had an apartment. The 11 officers were members of field artillery units.

“The inscription reads, ‘from Adolph — spelled with a “ph” — from Adolph Hitler’s apartment in Munich May 2, 1945,’ and it’s signed by John Grueber, Lt. Col. FA,” Panagopulos said.

While reactions from the Jewish community and community-at-large are unsurprisingly mixed when Nazi relics are up for sale, one expert looks at this particular object as a sign of victory.

“I think in some ways they’re an interesting reminder of the ally defeat of Nazi Germany,” said Steve Luckert, senior program curator at the Levine Family Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial  Museum. “We have some flags that were taken by GIs, swastikas they took from German buildings, and they signed those as well,  so this is kind of a symbol of allied triumph over Nazism.”

Neo-Nazis don’t buy this stuff. They’re too poor and stupid. — Bill Panagopulos, Alexander Historical Auctions

Luckert said there are concerns about the ideas of “Mein Kampf” spreading, especially with the rise of anti-Semitism and xenophobia around the world, but he believes it’s best to confront those ideas.

“I think it can be a tool to educate people,” he said. “It has never been banned in the U.S. Even during the war, people were encouraged to read it so they could learn something about Nazism.”

Panagopulos said he got a bit of pushback from a couple of Jewish  organizations but defended his auctioning of the book. His wife’s mother is an Orthodox Jew, and his wife works at his company, which also has several Jewish employees. He said his father’s hometown was also “wiped out in a German act of  retaliation [against] Greek guerillas.”

“I’m not a profiteer is what I’m trying to get across,” he said.

His company does auction Nazi regalia when it comes up, but he has also sold letters written by David Ben Gurion, George Washington and Mother Theresa. He once sold the journals of Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz doctor, to a Jewish doctor in  Detroit, which earned him a “thank you” from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The doctor was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who witnessed Mengele performing selections.

Panagopulos said he believes in preserving these types of artifacts as evidence. On the possibility that this could fall into the hands of a neo-Nazi, he proudly pointed to what he told German newspaper Der Spiegel: “Neo-Nazis don’t buy this stuff. They’re too poor and stupid.”

Ahead of the auction, Panagopulos spoke about his hope for the item.

“I hope someone buys it and gives it to Yad Vashem or the Holocaust Museum,” he said.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com