Bringing Clarity to Senior Living

On behalf of the entire North Oaks community, I would like to thank the Jewish Times and members of the local community for joining us for the first lecture of the North Oaks Institute (“Speaker Series Kicks Off with Social Security Commissioner,” July 8). We were honored to have the acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration share her knowledge as our first speaker, and we were happy to provide a robust networking opportunity for the area’s business leaders.

There are a multitude of questions and misconceptions connected to the world of senior care, from navigating the particulars of social security benefits to staving off the effects of dementia to choosing the right retirement plan for one’s lifestyle. The North Oaks Institute will feature speakers who are experts on such topics that concern not only the older population and their families, but the community at large. It is our hope that the speaker series will provide clarity to older adults and their supporting family members who are preparing to enter the world of senior living.

If you have any questions about the North Oaks Institute or would like to be notified about our next event, please email info@northoaks.net.

Same Old, Same Old

Did you ever go to Umami? Have you eaten at Red Goji?  Obviously not, because otherwise you never would have published the article that you did (“Red Goji Brings New Kosher Asian Cuisine,” July 8). It’s the exact same food, exact same menu, exact same restaurant. The only thing that changed (thank goodness) is the staff.  Although inexperienced, they are not depressing like the  former staff was.

Please do your research  before writing.

Letter Writer’s Ignorance

Dr. Alan Kelman, in his Your Say letter of July 1 (“JT Story Troubling”), is sadly misled and misinformed concerning the tragedy of the Orlando, Fla., shootings. Homosexuality is not, repeat not, a choice as Kelman so ignorantly suggests.

One does not wake up one day and decide to “consider” homosexuality. Coming out to one’s family is not, as Kelman states, shmutz. Thank G-d, Kelman is not a psychologist; otherwise I would be praying for his patients.

Trump’s Scary Tweet

References to numerology on why Donald Trump should be the next president aside, I could not believe my eyes when I read Luke Sanders’ Your Say letter of July 8, “Look to Gematria for Trump Endorsement.”

Perhaps Sanders was not informed or chose not to be informed about the most significant Trump tweet related to  Judaism so far in this campaign — the so-called “Star of David” tweet. It proves that while Trump may or may not be a bigot and may or may not be anti-Semitic, he sure is firing up many in his political base who are bigots and anti-Semites.

Last week, Trump tweeted a graphic of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton with a six-pointed star looking exactly as the Star of David and a pile of $100 bills with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.” Neither Trump nor members of his campaign staff have apologized for this anti-Semitic tweet. Instead, they deleted the original tweet and uploaded an edited graphic with a circle instead of a six-pointed star.

One well-known Trump supporter, David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana, liked the tweet so much that he followed up with a modified version of Trump’s original graphic. Duke listed Jewish donors to the Clinton campaign and wrote: “Absolutely True!”

Jonathan Greenblatt, chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “It’s long past time for Donald Trump to  unequivocally reject the hate-filled extremists orbiting around his campaign and take a stand against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate.”

The Trump tweet should send a chill down every Jewish spine in the U.S. and cause every Jewish voter — even  Republicans — to pause and reflect deeply before casting a vote for the GOP nominee.

Look to Gematria for Trump Endorsement

Shlomo Kahn (“Strange Bedfellows,” June 16) zogt emes (speaks the truth). Indeed, from a Jewish standpoint, Donald Trump is the authentic biblical candidate for president.

After all, the real estate mogul’s most famous book is the “Art of the Deal.” The  Hebrew word for “deal” (i.e., contractual arrangement) is, of course, brit. The Donald is the “master of the deal,” or ba’al habrit, making him quite literally the “covenantal” candidate.

Moreover, according to the hoary rabbinic art of gematriah, Trump’s name even yields the equivalent numerical value of “messiah, son of David!” For Torah-true Jews, the electoral choice in November is clear. Just sayin’.

Absurd Statements

Did Alan Kelman really say “considering homosexuality or transsexuality”? (Your Say letter, “JT Story Troubling,” July 1). Did he really ask, “What if this is a phase and the right psychotherapist working with these young men could turn them around?” What century is he living in? This astounds me. Being gay isn’t a choice or an illness that needs to be fixed. I can’t possibly fathom why you would print such  absurd statements.

Accept All People

After reading the article about the young adults who came to and will continue to come to terms with who they are and how G-d chose to make them, we are all aware that religiously observant Jews have specific challenges if they are not on the binary system of gender and sexuality within our Orthodox communities. My concern is regarding the letter (“JT Story Troubling,” July 1) by Alan Kelman, who also informs us he is a medical doctor.

I agree with Kelman that people are entitled to what they hold or believe to be true. But he talks about being bisexual, homosexual or born with the wrong-assigned physically cued gender as being something that people “choose.” Let me share what I have come to believe,  experience and hold true.

As someone who is Orthodox and who has known several people, both in and out of  the Orthodox community, who were indeed born in the wrong body and identified as a gender other than assigned, who has watched close friends in marriages to people whose sexuality was clearly not a choice and should have never been in such relationships, and who learns and teaches Jewish texts and addresses Halachic topics in my life daily, I assure you that gender and sexual identity is not a matter of choice.

In the Gemarah and elsewhere, we see at least seven  different terms that address gender identity. These categories, along with many others, are considered in terms of various commanded elements of Jewish life and whether inclusion is commanded, exempt or otherwise. It is most important to learn these texts and to understand what our rabbinic teachers from so long ago understood.

But there is also constant discussion in our Talmud and other Jewish texts about  acceptance of those who may not fit into whatever binary systems we set up in our lives. Compassion and concern for the human being and the protection of all life is so important that we can even “push aside” other mitzvot; in fact, we are commanded to do so in so many instances.

Most importantly, we are taught to love and accept all people who are created b’tzelem elokim. So many of us are born with various characteristics that cannot be “turned around,” as Dr. Kelman suggests. We are left-handed, we are women, we have learning differences, we are hearing impaired, sight impaired, physically compromised, born with various physical differences and so on. None of this is a choice. Neither is the sexuality or gender identity that is ingrained in us.

A Show of Courage

Unlike Dr. Alan Kelman, whose July 1 letter “JT Story Troubling” criticized the JT’s “Orlando Shooting Brings UMD Students Out of the Closet” (June 24), I want to commend both the reporting and the courage of the young adults profiled in the article. I was appalled at the condescending and disrespectful tone of Kelman’s letter. So gender identity can be “turned around” by the right psychotherapist? And having a gay or transgender family member constitutes shmutz?  Really? The students profiled in the story are fortunate that they have parents who treat them with more dignity than that.

Shame on JCC

Unlike the indifference on the part of Adam Hariri, a Park Heights member, regarding the Rosenbloom JCC’s decision to open its doors on Saturday mornings (“JCC’s Shabbat Decision Causes Concern,” June 17), I care!

After reading Rabbi Moshe Hauer’s column, “Shabbos at the JCC: Crossing the Line” (also June 17), I understand the rabbi’s feelings of disappointment. As a relative newcomer to Baltimore, it saddens me to learn that seven years ago, a big schism was created (yes, we are our own worst enemies) during the community debate over Sabbath closure.

After the decision to keep the building open on Sabbath afternoons only, according to Hauer, The Associated made the claim that “the Orthodox had their JCC in the Park Heights building while the Owings Mills campus belonged to the local non-Orthodox population.” As one who uses the Park Heights gym regularly, I can tell you that it is a facility that is enjoyed by both observant and non-observant Jews as well as men and women of all races and creeds.

Talk about unity.

Ironically, an article written by The Associated’s chairman of the board on the very next page of the same  JT issue is titled, “We Are One Community.” Mark Neumann states, “We listen respectfully to one  another’s opinions. … We share the same values even though we may interpret things a bit differently.” Were that the situation, wouldn’t “same values” encompass the 4th Commandment, to remember the Sabbath?

Granted, “remembering” and “keeping it holy” mean different things to different people.  Let me clarify. How one keeps the Sabbath, or not, is his business. Live and let live. And wouldn’t “listening respectfully” imply sensitivity to the observances of the Orthodox community?   I can’t help but wonder why a Saturday morning opening was so important to less observant people (from all the denominations) knowing how painful the original compromise must have been for our sizable religious community.

Associated president Marc Terrill indicates that “the board’s decision hinged on keeping the JCC open as a place for non-observant Jews to spend Shabbat in a Jewish setting.”  Really!  Does he consider the gym a Jewish setting?

What if, in a few years we’re asked to remove the “J” from the JCC? It could be a demand from the federal government threatening to cut off funding or a demand from a prominent Jewish donor to promote ecumenism.  Might it be possible, and might that galvanize our community to unify?

If a Jewish umbrella organization cannot close its doors on a Saturday morning out of deference to the Sabbath and out of sensitivity for the proclivities of some Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews (not to mention because of the origin of The Law), then we have more problems than a Pew or other professional study can begin to tackle statistically.

JT Story Troubling

Shame on you and your staff for publishing “Shooting Brings UMD Students Out of the Closet” (June 24). Was it not tragic and hurtful enough to feel and share the pain of the victims and their families in Orlando, Fla.? Was it not tragic enough that Facebook spreads the vilest gossip to anyone who goes there? Now we have your tabloid, which may still be read by people who don’t look at Facebook, writing all about these very young and hurting men.

I believe that they are confused and going through inexplicable pain (whether they say so or not). These men are barely out of their teenage years and for whatever reason are considering homosexuality or transsexuality. Their choices pain their religious families beyond the straining point. G-d help them all. What if this is a phase, and the right psychotherapist working with these young men could turn them around? No outsider needs to know about another’s shmutz.

Woe to you and your staff for exposing the families publicly. You have compounded their pain and embarrassment multifold.