Nobody Asked, But Here’s My Take

Ambulating through the May 15 issue of the JT:
> Regarding the editorial “Free Speech on Z Street”: Get real! Z Street is a sock puppet of the Zionist Organization of America and its deceitful head Morton Klein. Why does Z Street need tax-exempt status, anyway, i.e., a subsidy courtesy of U.S. taxpayers? After all, the ZOA is largely funded from the bottomless coffers of billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

> Joseph Trost (“Are You Kidding Me?” Your Say) faults Chabad-Lubavitch for meeting with President Obama, whom he asserts “dislikes Israel.” As Rachmiel Gottlieb has documented in the JT (“Upon Further Review,” July 2, 2014), the Rebbe himself was no big fan of the State of Israel, even forbidding his followers from singing the Israeli national anthem; and unlike many observant Jews, he is not buried on its holy soil. It is also telling that among the numerous photographs accompanying the cover story about Baltimore’s Cheder-Chabad (“Continuing a Legacy”), neither a flag nor map nor any other tangible signifier of the existence of the modern State of Israel is anywhere in sight.

> Alan Dershowitz (“Countering the Immorality of BDS”) is to be commended — or not? — for his forthright acknowledgement of the extensive influence and control that Jewish money exerts in campus affairs: to wit, his observation that, out of fear of the withdrawal of alumni support, “every president of every university knows that if they were to boycott Israel they would lose their jobs.”

New Obits Format Is Upsetting

Regarding Jay Caplan’s “Not Happy with New Format” for the JT’s obituaries (Your Say, May 15), I agree 100 percent. I’m sure this is not the first letter you’ve received regarding the new format. I have also written to webmasters but to no avail. Short of calling me an idiot for not liking the new format, perhaps I am too old to be “completely” computer literate. This new format is much too time consuming, and because I now live out of town, I have missed a lot of obits from the families of friends.

JT’s Absence Was Readers’ Loss

On May 11, several hundred Jewish community members came to celebrate Baltimore Zionist District’s 69th Brandeis Gala. They came to hear a living hero, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz of the Israel Defense Forces deliver a keynote address as this year’s Justice Louis D. Brandeis awardee. The general joins such illustrious people as Natan Sharansky, Vice President Joe Biden, publisher William Randolph Hearst Jr. and local Jewish community activist and philanthropist Shoshana Cardin, all previous Brandeis honorees. Guests also came to pay honor to Laurie and Kevin Luskin, two very civic-minded, philanthropic Zionist leaders.

How disappointing that the JT chose not to cover this important Baltimore Jewish community event. It was deemed important enough that local elected officials, Associated leadership and hundreds of Jewish community members attended.

Had a story appeared, readers would have gained insights about the IDF general who oversaw the operation that brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews home to Israel; who personally visited the families of all 67 of the IDF’s fatalities from last year’s war with Hamas in Gaza; who, as son of a Holocaust survivor, offered passionate and urgent reasons for a safe and secure Israel; and whose humanity shone through when he explained the moral and ethical challenges he faced during last summer’s war.

After the JT rightly gave such intense coverage to the violence occurring in our city just a week before, we wonder why, when an event so important and with such historic Jewish communal meaning happens, there is no coverage?

We are hopeful that the publication won’t overlook this meaningful event in the future.

Improper Question

The May 15 Your Say question, “Will the Justice Department’s investigation of the Baltimore Police Department result in more effective policing for the city?” seems as if the JT already has convicted the police. My question to the JT is: Where is the evidence, where is the proof, and where are the witnesses? I don’t know if the department is guilty or not, but it looks as if the JT has held its own trial. To me, the question was improper.

Last Line of Defense



In case you haven’t noticed, Hebrew school, that bastion of non-Orthodox supplemental religious training, is a thing of the past. In the evolution of American Jewish life, the Sunday schools and religious schools of past generations have given way to “experiential Wednesdays” and “Jewish discovery labs.”

And whatever you do, don’t call it “Hebrew school.”

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, the traditional backstop of religious instruction — prior to the unprecedented growth in the Jewish day school movement, Hebrew schools, of whatever denominational stripe, were a crucial component of Jewish education for those who sent their children to public or non-Jewish private schools — has been assaulted from all sides.

Many parents, their memories fresh from less-than-ideal experiences as pre-bar and bat mitzvah children a generation ago, have — fairly or unfairly — written off today’s synagogue-affiliated religious schools as carbon copies of past iterations. In addition, more families than a generation ago are sending their children to day schools, negating the need for after-school and weekend religious instruction.

At the same time, communal umbrella organizations such as Jewish federations are changing the way they fund Hebrew schools. The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore moved to a program-based grant system several years ago, and just this month, the Jewish Federation of Howard County did the same. Whereas that federation allocated $32,000 last year to Hebrew schools in the county, future allocations will likely be below that level.

As always, the question now before us is: Where do we go from here?

This column has repeatedly stressed the need for adequate support of Jewish education. But whereas that general call has been specifically articulated on the side of the day schools, it must never be forgotten that the need for Hebrew schools has not lessened. For families who have found day school education either too expensive or not desirable enough for their own children, Hebrew schools can provide badly needed religious instruction at a reduced price.

Hebrew schools can also be paths of entry toward greater familial involvement in Jewish life. Hence the push of some synagogues — Beth Shalom Congregation’s Jewish Experiential Wednesdays is a key part of its religious school program, while Beth Am Synagogue created the Jewish Discovery Lab — to rebrand the staid Hebrew school into a more culturally significant enterprise.

At a time of economically enforced budget cuts, it would be too easy to let Hebrew schools fall by the wayside. The Jewish federation system cannot be faulted for making difficult choices in allocating scarce communal resources, and we all as a community need to be adept at doing more with less. But we all need to recognize the vast potentials of our Hebrew schools as truly the last line of defense against the dual pressures of assimilation and apathy.

Where religious schools have as yet not succeeded, they need to be encouraged to do better. And where they’ve succeeded, they need to be held up as models for everyone else. At the end of the day, we can’t rely on only one educational model to guarantee the next generation’s level of Jewish involvement. It’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck mentality.

Hometown Connection

There is a Baltimore connection to the May 8 Focus on History story, “Nobel Medal of German Doc Who Shielded Jews Brings $395K.” Nate D. Sanders, of Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles that handled the transaction, was born in Baltimore, where he lived until he and his parents moved to Pikesville in the 1980s.

Israel Doesn’t Need Fox News

Letter-writer Joseph Trost (Your Say, May 1) counsels Baltimore Jewry to “Turn to Fox News” for accurate and credible reporting and analysis when it comes to information about Israel and the Middle East. Ridiculous. And here’s the most recent example why.

With regard to media coverage of the Baltimore protests and rioting, Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik (“Lessons from the Freddie Grey Case,” May 10) laments that “Fox News correspondents never seemed to be listening or respecting the citizens they were talking to and covering. They seemed to be courting confrontation.”

In addition: “Coverage from Fox News reached its nadir Monday when it reported that police had shot a young black man in the back near Pennsylvania and West North avenues, where so much of the Gray story had played out. It was a shocking twist in the story — except police shot no one.”

Indeed, “the [false] report by Fox News could have triggered even more violence in Baltimore. It’s hard to imagine how any news organization could have done worse.”

With friends like Fox News to toot its horn, Israel …

Unite Through Constructive Criticism

A May 8 Your Say letter (“J Street: No Friend of Israel”) states that we Jews are known for our “understanding nuance, etc.” I agree that criticism of Israel “does not mean that one is against the Jewish state,” but one might question the motives of a group such as J Street and some others that seem to exist solely for the purpose of continually denigrating Israel. Sad to say, and unknown to many, the recent peaceful rally by the Ethiopians only erupted into violence after a radical group (with a high profile in America) joined the protest to deliberately incite trouble.

Though claiming to be committed Zionists, the rigid stance on the part of some of these adversaries caused them to tune out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s urgent message to Congress. Unfortunately, there are groups that still resist identifying the enemy within! I prefer “global iso-
lation” to a delivery of lethal chemicals into our beloved Jewish State. Netanyahu lives in, and loves, Israel, and it is he (and not the “dissenters”) who has to make grueling life-and-death decisions.

Regarding two states as a solution, how comfy might one be if the demography changed in his cozy community, where he would have to continue living side-by-side with enemies sworn to his destruction? In The New York Times last year, Mahmoud Abbas wrote that a Palestinian state will not lead to peace but will “internationalize the conflict as a legal matter … paving the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the U.N. Human Rights Treaty and the International Court of Justice.”

The implication that Israel does not understand the plight of the Palestinians is indeed naïve and insulting. A frequent seasoned traveler in our tiny country would attest to the miracle of the diversity of the social services, schools, camps and programs available to Arab and Jew, without distinction.

No, Israel is not perfect, and it carries enough burdens without the enmity of Jews adding to its problems. Constructive criticism, delivered without malice, can serve to help us unite in our goal of keeping Israel a strong Democratic Jewish nation.

Terrorists Have No Place in Constitution

I would like to offer my comments to the May 8 editorial (“Muhammad as a Red Flag”).

The “free speech” amendment was added to the Constitution because the Founding Fathers believed that discourse between people would lead to a better government. They did not envision an Islamic fanatical terrorist movement that believed in killing people when they (the terrorists) were offended. The result of this belief is the killing of nonbelievers (Christians and Jews) all over the world.

Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative dared run a contest featuring cartoons about Muhammad. The editorial states that “the most effective deterrent to hate-speech peddlers such as Geller is to ignore them. Hopefully she will go away.

What would the writer say if the terrorists were successful in killing the participants? “Well, they asked for it?”

Rockin’ Seniors

Have you heard of the Invisible Generation? It is made up of citizens over 70 years of age. They are alive, active, alert, and, oh yes, they possess more wisdom than you could imagine. Have you seen 80- and 90-year-olds doing Zumba, Tai Chi, yoga, and ballet? Have you seen two 93-year-olds dancing the Lindy at a New Year’s Eve party? How about Russian Women’s Night?

All this and much more are regular activities at Weinberg Village, an independent living community in Owings Mills. There are untold stories here. Teachers, engineers, counselors, Holocaust survivors, artists and even someone who published a children’s book. There are many, many stories to be told. Why not share them with your readers?

While a superb article in the Jewish Times highlighted the unique ballet class (“Benefits of Ballet,” Feb. 20), there are many more activities that showcase the unseen and unknown talents of our senior population. These are not people to be shunted aside by Generation X or the millennials or whatever you want to call the under 60 crowd. Age is just a number.

We’re alive and well … and we rock!