Community Colleges Make a Difference

It was with great interest that I read the Baltimore Jewish Times’ Aug. 15 iNSIDER article “Community Colleges: Worth a Second Look.” After all, I won first prize, a $25 savings bond, by writing an essay, “Why a Junior College Should Be Established in Baltimore,” in June 1946.

I was 18 years old, and having immigrated from Germany in May 1940, I certainly did not have the money to attend a regular four-year college. So I felt that a junior college would help me. But I had to go to New York City, where I took courses in photography at a professional school.

Twenty-four years later I graduated from the Community College of Baltimore in June 1970 with an Associate in Arts Degree in data processing. My three children watched their mother get her diploma. I got a job with USF&G, a local insurance company, as a programmer analyst in its data processing department.

At the time I was interviewed by Dr. Sidney Kobre, a professor at the Community College of Baltimore who was publicizing education for adults at the junior college. His articles were printed in all of the local papers. A photo of my children looking on at my newly received degree was also published. When Dr. Kobre heard about my winning first prize at the citywide contest in 1946, he immediately published another article in the local papers calling it “Guide Essay Winner Graduated” with a subtitle “Mrs. Ruth Idas’ educational chickens have come home to roost.”

That Baltimore City, Baltimore County and the other counties have established many community colleges is a definite boon to the many young people who do not have the means or the interest or the opportunity to go to a four-year college. It is certainly a pathway for young people to be able to secure a better job and a better future than would otherwise be available to them.

Ruth London Idas Di Stefano
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

U.S. Must Acknowledge Truth about Gross’ Mission

Thank you for your concern about Alan Gross (“A Call for Help,” Aug. 15). However the editorial is 100 percent wrong:

Publicly, the government is saying the right things. For example, National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said last week that “we use every appropriate diplomatic channel to press for Mr. Gross’ release, both publicly and privately.”

Pressure has been the disingenuous line from Washington from the beginning. It avoids the U.S. government taking responsibility for sending Gross to undertake an illegal project to bring about regime change. Thus, the White House refuses to use the one diplomatic channel that will achieve his freedom.

The U.S. government must acknowledge the truth about Gross’ mission on behalf of a dead-end policy and sit down with the Cuban government for serious bilateral discussions.

John McAuliff
Executive Director
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
New York City

Cherishing One’s Family History

Thank you for an excellent and very interesting article (“Digging Up My Roots,” Aug. 15). I have been interested in my family history for 40 years, since I was 14 years old. I was fortunate enough to know my paternal grandmother, who passed away at age 83 when I was almost 17 years old; my maternal grandfather who passed away eight years ago at age 96; and both of his parents, my great-grandparents, who both passed away at age 86 within a month of each other after my bar mitzvah. After my great-grandfather passed away, my great-grandmother could not live without him; they had married for 66 years.

A lot of influence for me becoming an observant Jew came from my great-grandfather who I remember, when I was 7 and visiting the Bronx from Baltimore. I would watch him pray with immense interest, and I still have a yarmulke that my great-grandmother gave me when I was 7. I remember her giving it to me as if it were today.

Thanks to a cousin on my mother’s side, I have a whole history book with photographs and documents which he wrote, published and distributed to family members. He was successful in researching back to the late 1700s to my great-great-great-grandparents. On my father’s side, I have some information but very minimal. There is nobody living today who can help me with the information. I just remember what I was told as a youngster and have found bits of information on the Internet.

It is very difficult to find information on my paternal side; Freedman is a very popular name. On my grandmother’s side (my father’s mother’s side), the name Simmons is also very popular, and it may not even be the original name.

Researching one’s family history is a wonderful thing, and it is something that should be cherished for generations.

Simcha Mendel Freedman

Which Rally Did You Go To?

The Jewish Times’ Aug. 7 article, “Baltimoreans Rally over Gaza” says that hundreds of people showed up. As the first one there at 3:30 p.m. and leaving after Mincha and tehillim at around 8 p.m., I saw a different reality. With plenty of video and pictures to prove the point, and having spoken to the police unofficially, you can be sure that there were a minimum of 1,000 or 1,500 people rallying for Israel, far outnumbering the pro-Palestinians. If I had not been there myself but read the article, I would not have known of the enthusiasm, the spirit and the breathtaking love for Israel displayed by young and old. It was a major Kiddush Hashem. The police, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Melissa Hyatt, respected both sides and did an extraordinary job, above and beyond.

Frank Storch

Like Father, Like Son

A line from Joshua Runyan’s Aug. 15 Opening Thoughts (“Looking to the Past for Our Future”) brought to mind a line from a radio program starring ventriloquist/comedian Edgar Bergen and his wooden dummy Charlie McCarthy that aired from 1937 to 1956.

“The son is the acorn,” Runyan wrote, quoting Alan Arkin’s Dr. Sheldon Kornbett in the 1979 movie, “The In-Laws”. “The father is the oak.”

Similarly, Charlie McCarthy “told” Bergen that his grandfather was named Pine Tree McCarthy. His eldest son, of course, was named Cone.

Gerald Schoenfeld

When Will Our Leaders Stand Up for Israel?

Over the past month, two local events were organized in response to the war waged by Hamas against Israel   On July 17, the Baltimore Vaad HaRabbonim convened a Communal Gathering for Unity and Prayer at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, and on July 21, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore organized a gathering of solidarity at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts. The organizers deserve credit for convening these events, which were both well attended.

However, when Israel is under attack from a vicious foe dedicated to its destruction and groups are publicly assembling in Baltimore to defame Israel and support its enemies, more is needed than understated indoor gatherings in the safe and familiar confines of Park Heights and Owings Mills. Such times demand a massive public demonstration that reaches beyond Jewish ZIP codes, challenges the slanderers and defamers, educates the apathetic and uninformed and provides an emotional outlet for a Jewish community bursting with love for Israel and eager for a means to express it.

On July 30, the public rally so overdue here in Baltimore was held at Penn Station, and what an incredible event it was. That same day, anti-Israel groups planned a demonstration at Penn Station and a march to a North Avenue bookstore hosting a diatribe by notorious anti-Zionist Norman Finkelstein. Rather than allowing Israel and the IDF to be defamed without challenge, a thousand Baltimoreans thronged the plaza in front of the train station to declare their unwavering commitment to the government, people and armed forces of Israel and their opposition to the lies and distortions spread by the anti-Israel demonstrators.

Besides the unprecedented size of the pro-Israel rally, the rally was noteworthy for its amazing electric atmosphere. Contrary to the popular view that support for Israel has declined among younger Jews, students and young adults were at the vanguard of the rally, injecting it with tremendous energy and passion. Led by the youth, the crowd stood in front of Penn Station waving flags, chanting slogans and singing songs, marched down Charles Street to rally at the corner of North Avenue and then marched back to Penn Station for a final demonstration of singing and flag waving.

The fact that so many Baltimore Jews confidently and enthusiastically assembled in the heart of Baltimore City to loudly express their pride in the State of Israel reflects a Zionist commitment in Baltimore that cuts across demographic and denominational lines. However, the rally also represents a massive failure of communal leadership that has been tolerated for far too long, since The Associated and the Baltimore Jewish Council lacked the vision to organize a public, pro-Israel rally such as the one held at Penn Station.

The pro-Israel rally leaves no question that Baltimoreans young and old have the self-confidence and self-pride to loudly, publicly and unashamedly proclaim their love for Israel and the IDF and to challenge anyone who believes otherwise. When will our leaders exhibit these same qualities?

Jay Bernstein
Host of Shalom USA Radio

Editor’s Note: The writer was an organizer of the July 30 pro-Israel counter-demonstration at Penn Station.

The Apartness of the Jewish People

Joshua Runyan concludes his Aug. 1 Opening Thoughts column with a comment about Israel and Jewry having to “go it alone.”  Presumably Balaam’s observation (Num. 23:9) about such apartness of the Jewish people underlies this remark. The Afrikaner (South African) word meaning apartness is apartheid. Logically, an apartheid people have every right to live as an apartheid nation in an apartheid State.

Gideon Donnelly

Use Diplomacy, Not Bombs

Civilians have paid a horrific price in the ongoing violence in Gaza. I hope my members of Congress will support and work for a lasting cease-fire that includes lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The U.S. has particular responsibility to help end the killing, since U.S. weapons are fueling this conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross has called the blockade collective punishment against a civilian population. U.S. policymakers must call for lifting the blockade to ensure  a durable cease-fire.

While it’s imperative to address the immediate crisis, I also hope the U.S. will support long-term stability by shifting from a militarized approach in the Middle East to one rooted in inclusive diplomatic solutions. The success of the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran and the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons demonstrates that the world can be made a safer place through diplomacy, not more bombing.

Robert Frey
Harwood, Md.

For Israel, IDF, BT Answers the Call

As fellow alumni of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and veterans of the Israel Defense Forces, we want to thank Jordan Low for his exemplary service to Israel and wish him a full and speedy recovery from his injuries (“Ground Incursion Hits Home,” July 25).

Since its inception, Beth Tfiloh has represented a beacon of high-quality academic education and intellectual stimulation that has become a cornerstone for the Baltimore Jewish community. BT not only prepares students for the rigors of advanced education but also equips them with an essential value system to succeed outside the classroom.

As proof, BT boasts an impressive list of colleges and universities into whose ranks its graduates have matriculated as well as an equally remarkable number of alumni who have decided to risk life and limb to literally defend our values and fight for freedom, whether serving in the American military or the Israeli army. Jordan is but another example of the greatness that continues to come out of the hallways of Beth Tfiloh, and we are all honored to have him as a fellow alumnus.

Elie Berman
(BT 2004, Kfir Brigade)

Yoni Rose
(BT 2004, Nahal Brigade)

Alex Simone
(BT 2006, Paratroopers)

Zach Alter
(BT 2006, Kishrei Chutz)

Traci Siegel
(BT 2007, Air Force)

Ephraim Shapiro
(BT 2008, Unspecified)

Ari Benjamin
(BT 2009, Golani Brigade)

Eitan Fisch
(BT 2009, Armored Corps)

Josh Rosen
(BT 2009, Nahal Brigade)

Aaron Edelman
(BT 2010, Golani Brigade)

Binny Goldman
(BT 2010, Paratroopers)

Josh August
(BT 2012, Golani Brigade)

Yossi Kutler
(BT 2012, Golani Brigade)

Volunteer Opportunity: Support IDF Bases

Thank you for your editorial on what we can do to help Israel (“Support for Our Beleaguered Israeli Family,” July 18).

Another way is to volunteer on an Israel Army base. Volunteers for Israel is the exclusive representative for Sar-El in the U.S. We place volunteers on IDF bases for two to three weeks (some one-week programs are available ) to do civilian work such as packing medical supplies, repairing machinery and equipment, building fortifications and cleaning, painting and maintaining IDF bases. Volunteers work alongside Israeli soldiers, live in barracks on base, wear IDF work uniforms and enjoy three kosher meals a day.

Right now, bases are full of summer volunteers, but later in the summer and fall, much work will need to be done to resupply bases from the current IDF operation. Don’t just help with your checkbook — help Israel with your hands.

For more information, go to

Larry Feldman
Volunteers for Israel