Let’s Thank Family Caregivers

2013ftv_kruppEvery November, the president of the United States proclaims that month as  National Family Caregivers Month.  It is designated as time to thank, support, educate and celebrate the more than 90 million family caregivers across the country who provide $450 billion in “free” care-giving services.

It is hard to believe that two out of every five adults are family caregivers, that 39 percent of all adult Americans are caring for a loved one who is sick or disabled (up from 30 percent in 2010). And this is not to mention that there are at least another 10 million people caring for loved ones with special needs who are younger than 18.  So if you count yourself as one of these millions of Americans, you are definitely not alone.

Being a family caregiver can be a very lonely endeavor, especially if you have little or no chance for social interaction with others.  But in the not-too-distant future, virtually every family in America will be involved in some form of family care giving.

Experts predict that the nation will need one million more home-care workers by 2017 and as many as three million more by 2030, when all of an expected 78 million baby boomers will be older than 65.  Right now, these home-care workers or non-medical home-care aides come into the homes of the disabled or older adults and help with bathing, dressing, meal preparation and everyday chores.

Unlike medical home health aides, they don’t do physical therapy or handle medications. Many work through home-care agencies, while others work directly for families.  Most seniors pay out of pocket or tap their long-term health insurance policies for the in-home care.

The demand for in-home care is growing because the number of individuals 65 and older in the U.S is expected to double in the next 20 years, and many seniors prefer to stay at home rather than move to a nursing facility. Also, more families are relying on paid caregivers because more women work than in previous generations and cannot attend to elderly parents during the day. And it’s not just women doing the care giving.  Men are now almost as likely as women to say they are family caregivers (37 percent of men; 40 percent of women).

As we observe National Family Caregivers Month, we honor those family caregivers who take time to improve the lives of family and friends. Family caregivers exemplify the true spirit of compassion by providing support to their loved ones and assisting them with their everyday activities and special needs.  These selfless people must often make great personal sacrifices to maintain the care and support their family and friends require.

It is at this time that we want to remind caregivers to share the responsibilities. It is also a good time for others who are not caregivers to think about helping the caregivers they know or even to consider a career as a caregiver.

We all have a lot on our own plates. But know that by reaching out and letting someone know that you are there to help and listen, you are taking a good first step. The second step is not to wait for a caregiver to ask for help but to offer your assistance and insist on it. Thank you caregivers.

Shoshana Krupp is managing partner at Elite HomeCare Services. SCENEior focuses on the benefits and challenges of growing older.

Thanksgivukkah: Abe Lincoln the Maccabee

2013_silberI have fond childhood memories of Thanksgiving. I can’t quite remember what was on the annual menu, but I do remember the feelings of familial warmth and cohesion. In the midst of the manic pace of life, the last Thursday in November offered us the opportunity to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

I remember that Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, who was known for his lengthy classes, would begin teaching earlier on Thanksgiving to allow his students the opportunity to spend quality time with their families. In many ways, Thanksgiving has become an important anchor in familial connection for Jews and non-Jews alike.

American Jewry is abuzz with excitement surrounding a calendrical anomaly that has not occurred since 1861 and will not occur again in our lifetimes — the marriage of Chanukah and Thanksgiving.  This family-time extravaganza is already known by many as Thanksgivukkah.

I, for one, am very excited. The connection between the two holidays is more profound than you might imagine.

On Chanukah, we commemorate and celebrate our military victory over the Greeks and the cruse of oil lasting eight days. Although we mention the military victory in our prayers, it is the kindling of the menorah that today defines our observance of this holiday.

No one will dispute the awesomeness of the supernatural display of one day’s supply of oil burning for eight, but it was the military victory that secured our future. Still, the oil takes center stage. Why?

The Talmud (Shabbos 21b) explains that after defeating the Syrian Greek army, the Maccabees returned to the Temple to find it in total disarray. The altar had been used for idolatrous service; the golden utensils were gone. The Maccabees knew they had to do something to ignite the flame within the hearts of their Jewish brothers and sisters, so they began to look for oil. They found only one small jug with the seal of the High Priest (indicating its ritual purity).

They had to make a momentous decision: To light the menorah or not to light the menorah?

On the one hand, it didn’t make much sense to start a process they would be unable to complete. There was clearly not enough oil to keep the menorah burning. And even if they kindled the menorah, it would be a week until they could secure additional ritually pure oil. Perhaps, it would have been better to wait and inaugurate the menorah service properly a week later.

On the other hand, the Maccabees realized there was an opportunity, no matter how imperfect the opportunity really was. It was an opportunity to infuse light, and they grabbed it. They kindled the menorah, and God helped them make history.

The menorah has become Chanu-kah’s dominant theme because it reminds us to take advantage of opportunities. Don’t wait for the perfect moment; make the current moment perfect.

Abraham Lincoln was thinking like a Maccabee when he re-established Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving observances and celebrations date back to the 1500s. But in 1863, just two years after Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving (the last such occurrence), President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a legal holiday.

The Civil War was raging, and Lincoln penned a special Thanksgiving proclamation:

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity … harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict. … I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

In the midst of a brutal war, Lincoln reminded us we must take the opportunity to thank God for all that is good.

Like Lincoln, let us find our inner Maccabee and seize the moments when they present themselves. Let us honor the tradition of this great country and remember to thank God even during challenging times.

Rabbi Shmuel Silber is the spiritual leader of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim and founder and dean of the Institute for Jewish Continuity.

David vs. Goliath

2013ftv_novickWe all grew up with the biblical story of David and Goliath. Of all the various stories from the Bible, as a child it was the one I would read over and over again. The story of the young boy defeating — against all odds — the massive giant is a lesson we adults apply today to business, warfare and obstacles of all kinds.

Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, “David and Goliath, Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants,” demystifies the story and the common assumptions we make about power.

Gladwell, who has gained a res-pected pop-culture status as an author, sees beyond appearances to get through to their underlying essence. He does it again here.

As the story goes, the Philistines were camped on one side of a ridge overlooking the Elah Valley; the Israelites were on the other. Unwilling to descend down into the lower ground, both armies were at a standstill. That is until Goliath makes his way down into the valley, carrying a javelin, a spear and a sword. He barks, “Choose you a man and let him come down to me! If he prevail in battle against me and strikes me down, we shall be slaves to you. But if I prevail and strike him down, you will be slaves to us and serve us.”

When no one in the Israelite camp moves, a young shepherd boy steps forward and volunteers. Against King Saul’s wishes, the boy refuses the king’s armor and runs down with only a sling, a shoulder bag and shepherd’s staff. Goliath mocks him, gesturing to his staff, “Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?”

What takes place next is the stuff of legend.

With perspicacity and close examination, Gladwell reveals the reverse of what we were taught. Among the three kinds of ancient warriors, which included cavalry (on horseback and on chariots) and infantry (foot soldiers with swords and shields) there were projectile warriors (slingers).

An experienced slinger could kill or maim a target at a distance of up to 200 hundred yards and were deadly against infantry. So who really was the underdog?

Gladwell uses this story to demonstrate how we misperceive threats and challenges. We often see them as enormous when we’re not really seeing them for what they truly are. He points out, just as the Israelites saw an intimidating giant, in reality the very thing that gave the giant his apparent advantage was also the source of his greatest weakness.

Fast forward to Israel today. With a vast unwieldy Arab world in turmoil — not unlike the larger, unstable Goliath — Israel has demonstrated the story Gladwell is preaching. By being smarter and more nimble modern Israel is the embodiment of the brave lad who outmaneuvered the slow, unsteady enemy.

Again, the metaphor is not limited to warfare. Each of us also has our own perceived Goliath — an illness, a job schoolwork — that seems overwhelming.  Its size might just be its downfall.

Abe Novick is a local freelance writer.
For more, visit his website, abebuzz.com.

Show, Don’t Tell

We all wonder why people either buy or don’t buy from us. You must understand your buyers’ psychology.

In order for someone to make a purchase they must have the following three issues satisfied:

> They must feel like they know you.

> They must feel like they can trust you.

> They must like you.

The fastest way for you to accomplish this is with video that allows your customers to get to know you.

A recent survey showed that 54 percent of people who watched a video from a business bought a product from that business. Seeing is believing.

You are reading this, but imagine what it would be like if you were seeing me walking you through the important highlights of this column. You would feel like you know me, you hopefully would like me, and you would be more likely to trust me from the way I deliver my information.

Do you know what the No. 2 Internet search engine is and who owns it?

YouTube —owned by Google.

Your clients are searching online for information. The best way for them to learn about you is for you to control the conversation. Here are some guidelines to consider when producing online commercials.

> Create an HD video, and make sure your sound is good.

> Keep your message to no more than three minutes; two minutes is even better.

> Make sure your video contains your contact information and provides good information that helps the viewer in his/her buying decision.

Brian Sacks is a mobile marketing expert with more than 26 years of direct-response marketing experience. He is the co-founder of Trackable Response Inc. in Catonsville. For more information, visit MyWebReputationReport.com.

Twitter 101

071913_patti_neumann_smIn light of the recent Initial Public Offering (IPO) a few weeks ago and many email requests to teach Twitter to individuals, here is a 101 tutorial on Twitter and how to tweet. Hopefully, you will see how its real-time strength works for businesses and creates opportunities to get messages out to the world.

You do not have to tweet. Facebook is the giant, but more than 224 million brands, people and businesses worldwide do utilize Twitter and many other social media networks — from Instagram to Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest, blogs and LinkedIn, among others — integrate the service into their “sharing” mechanisms. If you want your message, comment or opinion in front of the most powerful people and businesses, this is the best and most efficient way.

Wikipedia defines Twitter as “an online social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read ‘tweets,’ which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through the website interface, SMS or a mobile device.”

All of the information must be concise and fit in a 140-digit, text-style message, so grammar is definitely not up to the English literature professor’s par.

To get started, go to twitter.com and create an account to set up your “handle.” Next, start following people. To “follow” someone on Twitter means to subscribe to their tweets; when they post something, it will appear on your main newsfeed for you to see.

News is often spread on Twitter through “retweets.” A retweet re-posts information originally tweeted by another Twitter user for all of your followers to see.

The @ sign is used to call out usernames in tweets, like this: Hello @Twitter! When a username is preceded by @, it becomes a link to that user’s Twitter profile. Mentioning another user in your tweet by including @ followed directly by their username is called a “mention.”

The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. It was originally created as a way to categorize messages. The list on the left side of your newsfeed shows you all of the topics that are “trending” by compiling the most commonly used hashtags on the site at that point in time. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message, or in the trends list, shows you all other tweets marked with that keyword.

Businesses such as food companies or, better, mobile food truck businesses that change menu items and locations frequently, find Twitter especially useful. Local mobile food trucks in the area tweet their expected times and locations, for followers to see and stay updated. People choose to follow them because they can get real-time information.

Now script a tweet to @CITYPEEKpatti with the #citypeek #jewishtimes and we will follow you back! Did you know that youcan also follow @jewishtimes?

Patti Neumann, CEO/chief social thinker of Baltimore’s CITYPEEK.com, can be reached at patti@citypeek.com or CITYPEEK Patti on Facebook/twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram.

Thanksgivukkah And The Knaidel

Many of us celebrated Arvind Mahankali’s victory at the national spelling bee last May. Why? Arvind is not a MOT (Member of the Tribe). We celebrated because he won by spelling knaidel, those fluffy floaters we relish on Passover and Shabbat. Putting aside the proper spelling of knaidel, the fact that it appears in the dictionary and was included the spelling bee is one yardstick for how cool being Jewish is right now.

That has not always been the case. Chanukah commemorates a very different time in our history, when the government, aided by highly assimilated Jews, made a concerted effort to eliminate Jewish tradition and practice from public and private life.

Jewish identity has always been complicated. The first intermarriage takes place in the Torah when Esau marries two Hittite women to the consternation of his parents, Isaac and Rebecca (Gen. 26:34-35). The biblical prophets rebuke the Jews of their time for being unfaithful to God and the practices of their ancestors.

During the Maccabee period, some Jews totally assimilated into Greek culture, even undoing their circumcisions. Some Jews, such as the Dead Sea Scroll writers, isolated themselves from those with whom they disagreed. Others accommodated their faith and practice to contemporary culture to varying degrees reflecting almost, but not quite, the full spectrum between assimilation and isolation. This last category represented the main body of the Maccabee coalition. They fought for the core Jewish belief in one God and the core Jewish practices of Torah, kashrut and Shabbat. Yet their children and grandchildren carried both Greek and Hebrew names, much as we have English and Hebrew names today.

Fill in the specific details from any Jewish historic period and the story is much the same. The assimilationists and isolationists both ultimately fail to ensure Jewish continuity through the ages. The accommodationists, those who adroitly bridge religious integrity and wider cultural integration, somehow do. That we are still here today is proof that Jewish continuity is a balance between faithfulness to our ancient traditions and embracing the best of the larger cultures in which we find ourselves.

That is why what is happening this year is so exciting. A new holiday has been born: Thanksgivukkah. It is the quintessential Jewish American holiday, celebrating the first day of Chanukah on Thanksgiving. Both Chanukah and Thanksgiving celebrate thankfulness to God and the importance of mutual respect and religious pluralism. These are American values as much as Jewish ones. In fact, our Founding Fathers found them in the same Torah the Maccabees protected for posterity.

So much rides on our ability to find our balance between tradition and change. Being Jewish is cool, not just because Jewish expressions and foods, such as knaidel, are now part of American culture. Being Jewish is cool because we guard and transmit a timeless message for all humankind: Despite our differences, we are all made in God’s image and thus equally deserving of respect and the opportunity to live with dignity and freedom of conscience. That is what the Maccabees fought for, and so can we.

Rabbi Susan Grossman is the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia and is a member of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. The opinions expressed do not necessarily
reflect those of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis or its members.

Why I Choose To Be A Soldier Instead Of A Student

It was like something out of a comedy sketch. I stood at the front of the classroom, nervous, and launched into the Hebrew-language presentation I had prepared for that day’s lesson. I say launched, but really it was closer to a sputtering. A stammering verbal “balagan” riddled with grammatical mistakes and laced with “Baltimorese” undertones.

My classmates at the mechina, a 10-month pre-army preparatory program in which classes are peer led, were all Israeli. Even though they weren’t yet enlisted, clearly they had already honed a take-no-prisoners attitude. Unable to contain themselves, they fell about laughing at the pathetic attempts of their American peer to speak Hebrew.

My year at the mechina was a most difficult endeavour, but it was also most rewarding.

After completing a year with Young Judaea, I knew I wanted to make Israel my home. I also knew that being in the Israeli army would help me assimilate.

I had a good life in the United States and was already accepted into college (with scholarships). But I knew that if I didn’t take the plunge now, later on I might be too old for the army or I might build connections in America. My grandparents were olim too. In the 1970s they uprooted from America to establish Neve Ilan, a collective village a few miles from Jerusalem. I was inspired.

At 10, I became a Young Judaea camp addict. I would count the days until camp each school year. Those summers made up the sum of my connection to Judaism. My Baltimore family had a mild affiliation to the Reconstructionist movement. I did not go to a Jewish school, and neither did I have many Jewish friends —  other than those from Young Judaea.

I eventually became director of youth education for Young Judaea Mazkirut, which led to me spend my gap year in Israel as a volunteer. I tutored Ethiopians and used my culinary know-how to open a soup kitchen in South Tel Aviv. Yet still, something was missing. Somehow it wasn’t enough for me to pat myself on the back for having gotten through the year so that I could check off the “Israel experience” box. I wanted the Israel experience to be my life experience. And that was when I decided I would enlist with the Israeli Defense Forces.

I was told that the best way to get prepared for the army was to join a mechina. But there, our days were long. I was the only American; no one had heard of Baltimore.

But slowly, the classmates at the mechina — the same ones who mocked my Hebrew — became my adopted family. On free Shabbats, they took me into their homes when I had nowhere else to go. At the end, I knew I was ready to enlist in the army. Getting a top and challenging position involved a set of grueling tests and interviews. I made it.

Last week, I formally became a soldier in the IDF. There’s a sense of triumph here. I fought to come to Israel, to learn Hebrew, to immerse in the culture and get into the army.

My Israel experience has become my life experience.

CLTC Is The Place For Me

Who would have thought that the best summer of my life could have taken place in Mukwonago, Wisconsin?  CLTC (Chapter Leadership Training Conference) is one of BBYO’s summer program opportunities, where I spent 12 amazing days learning about how to become a Jewish leader in my chapter and in my Jewish community as a whole.

BBYO is a youth organization for Jewish teens all around the world. In Baltimore, I participate in events with a group of girls who belong to the chapter Achot BBG #2383. Outside of that, BBYO also gives you many chances to meet teens from all over the country. One of those ways is summer programs. With so many from which to choose, I found myself faced with a tough decision. Luckily, I made the right choice by picking CLTC.

My favorite part was the optional Shacharit morning services. At first, I was reluctant to attend. I’ve participated in similar services at summer camps in the past, but to my surprise, the CLTC Shacharit was completely different. My friends and I would sing “Oseh Shalom” at the top of our lungs, and by the end of the session I was even brave enough to teach my favorite “Adon Olam” tunes to an audience of more than 50.

Not only did CLTC solidify my connection to Judaism, it also taught me leadership skills that I use every day to improve my chapter at home. I learned how to lead chapter meetings, encourage Israel advocacy, plan bonding programs and organize fund-raisers, and everything in between. The whole experience was invaluable; it’s enabled me to take my BBYO career further. I was elected president of my chapter, and I’m on an international globalization committee.

I’ve gone to Jewish summer camp for five years, but I would trade all of that for just one summer at CLTC. Not only did I learn leadership, but I also gained friends who I talk to every single day. San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, you name it — I met great people from all over the country.

I would recommend CLTC to anyone, but if you’re looking for a different summer experience, BBYO offers many other programs too. Do you want to go to Israel to learn prayers on top of Masada? Do you want to meet teens from Bulgaria and help strengthen their Jewish community? Do you want to do service projects all over the U.S. in cities such as Boston, Chicago and Washington? BBYO has a summer program for all of those things.

If you are a Jewish teen interested in having the summer of your life, you should check out the BBYO’s summer programs. There will be an information session at the JCC for teens and their families on Nov. 17. I hope to see you there.

Melanie Weiskopf is a student at Park School.

Engaging Volunteers

110813_magat_allisonIn today’s busy, fast-paced world, in which our schedules are filled with obligations to both career and family, free time truly is a luxury. When members of our community make the choice to use their free time to give back to the community in which they live and work, they want to know that the experience will be both meaningful for them and beneficial to the well-being of Jewish Baltimore. The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore helps those volunteers find the right place to share their time and talent.

Realizing that their involvement is a gift and eager to remain respectful of our volunteers’ time, The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) ensures that we are making the most effective matches between volunteers and organizations in The Associated’s system of local agencies. Baltimore stands out among federation cities across North America for the investment made in the training and stewardship of leaders in the community. The success of our volunteer training efforts is the reason we can sustain a strong centralized fundraising and planning system that meets critical current needs and plans for the future.

CCEL strives to strengthen and enrich the Baltimore Jewish community by engaging individuals in meaningful opportunities for volunteer involvement and advancement throughout The Associated system. CCEL accomplishes this mission by engaging, training, educating and placing volunteers.

As chair of CCEL, I am able to see firsthand how inspiring a volunteer experience can be if it is thoughtfully planned. Thanks to its centralized system, The Associated is able to offer a broad scope of areas in which one can volunteer. There is truly a place for everyone who wants to get involved. CCEL’s committee of lay and professional ambassadors help make those matches both meaningful and productive. We help our volunteers turn their passion into action.

When a volunteer comes to us seeking a place to get involved, we spend the time getting to know him or her and finding areas that are a good fit. We ask prospective volunteers what excites them about Jewish Baltimore or what issue keeps them up at night. These questions enable us to get to the core of their interests and help make the best matches for them. Only by really knowing our volunteers’ areas of interest can we properly steward them to the right opportunity.

While volunteers bring their own considerable skills to their involvement in the community, they also receive extensive training from The Associated. From formal training in governance procedures to the Jewish perspectives on leadership, Associated volunteers are given access to the tools they need to be successful in their volunteer roles. They are also able to take these newly learned skills with them to the other organizations with which they are involved. A well-trained cadre of volunteers serving our community elevates the work of every organization in Jewish Baltimore and ensures a strong, healthy community for years to come.

By listening to the desires of our volunteers and understanding the needs of our community, we are able to connect our volunteers to meaningful opportunities that enable them to effect real change in The Associated system and our community. This process is critical to both the current strength and future success of our community.

Allison Magat is chair of The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and
Leadership. For information about getting involved with The Associated and its agencies, contact Mimi Rozmaryn at 410-369-9310 or mrozmaryn@associated.org.

How Can I Not?

110813_laura-blackI believe we are all more the same than different. We try to be good parents, children, siblings and friends. We strive to live by good values.

We want to provide for our families. We want to see our children reach their own goals and define their own paths. We want to laugh, and we want to feel.  We want to do, and we want to experience. We yearn to learn, and we seek to teach.

We want to cherish our loved ones, and we want to cherish sacred moments. We want good health. And we want purpose. We want to feel valued, and we want strong connections.

We all just do the best that we can. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometime we just can’t.

Some of us are hungry. Some of us are lacking for shelter. Some of us cannot afford our medicines. Some of us can’t heat our homes. Some of us can’t fix our roofs.  And some of us can’t even walk to the mailbox.

Some of us live with an abusive spouse. Some of us are fighting deadly addictions. And some of us can’t afford one more moment drowning in loneliness. And some of us just need a place to grow.

As a member of this Baltimore Jewish community, we have help. We have The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

We have a place that will help take care of our needs if we are not able to do it alone. We have a place that will provide roofs over our heads and food for our children. We have a place that will open its arms and take care of its most vulnerable. And we have a place that will allow us to enjoy the greatest gift of all, the gift of giving.  Whether through our dollars or our hours, we have a place where we can make a difference.

So, how can we not help?  How can we not see the needs of our fellow Jews? And, if we see the needs, how can we not help?

Every year, we get together on Super Sunday, harnessing the incredible energy of our community to support this mission, just as we did on Oct. 27. There is something so special about a phone-a-thon where in one room, we see young and old, teens and elementary-age children, Jews of all denominations, volunteering for one great cause:  to make our Baltimore Jewish community that much better.

At Super Sunday, there was Lewis Penn, who has not missed a Super Sunday since 1955 — back when volunteers used to go door to door to ask for donations.  There were children who came with their parents for the first time, making their first calls and raising hundreds of dollars. There were longtime supporters and first-time supporters all feeding off the energy of one person talking to another person to help a third person.

We had the opportunity to experience the caring and giving of this magnificent community.  We took the chance to see that we are all the same more than we are different.

Why do I choose to give?  How can I not?

Laura Black was co-chair of The Associated’s 2013 Super Sunday with her husband, Charles Klein.