Clarification Needed

Addressing the quote from Anat Bar-Cohen’s Jan. 15 testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging that stated that the Jewish Social Service Agency in the Washington metropolitan area “has experienced a 15 percent budget cut for each of the past four years from the Claims Conference and other sources” (“Budget Cuts Impede Survivor Services,” Jan. 24), it is important to note that it was excerpted from a much larger, more detailed presentation.

That testimony did speak to — on a more global scale — actions that have been taken in the last couple of years to address JSSA’s ability to serve the ever-increasing number of frail and financially at-risk survivors in our community. Despite the increases in funding for home-care services from the Claims Conference for the past four years, JSSA experienced a serious funding crisis two years ago. Since then, we have partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to create a joint community fund — the UJEF Holocaust Survivor Communal Fund — solely dedicated to supporting safety-net services for needy Holocaust survivors and have, to date, raised more than $2 million.

That said, both sources of funding are still not sufficient to address the full and wide-ranging critical safety-net service needs of the more than 200 survivors JSSA serves annually. For instance, while funding allows us to provide 25 hours a week of in-home care for survivors, this does not cover the needs of many who require care seven days a week. As yet, no stable and adequate approach exists to address the comprehensive needs of those survivors who, as they age, become more frail, confront more health issues, in many cases struggle financially and are desperately trying to remain in their own homes in the community.

Tal Widdes
Chief Operating Officer
Jewish Social Service Agency
Rockville

Intermarriage a Disappointment

As someone who was featured in a previous “Beshert” story and long-time subscriber to the JT, I was extremely disappointed to see two stories that both featured intermarried couples (“Same Difference,” Jan. 3, and “Relay for Life,” Jan. 17). During a time when intermarriage is soaring and we are fighting for our future as a people, the JT and its staff should be embarrassed to highlight newlyweds who are not even Jewish. This not only diminishes the magazine’s credibility as a Jewish publication, but also gives a stamp of approval to a life decision that could wipe out Judaism as we know it in a few generations.

Are there really not enough Jewish couples to write about? Is there really a lack of Jews in our community actually committed to preserving our 5,000-year-old heritage? I personally know of several couples, at different levels of observance, who recently got engaged or married. These couples are actually “committed to raising a Jewish family and keeping a Jewish home.”

Seth S.
Baltimore

Editor’s Note: Couples who wish to be featured in the “Beshert” column should contact 410-902-2305 or e-mail Linda.Esterson@verizon.net

Stores Are Replaceable!

The JT’s articles about the closing of Loehmann’s shocked and disappointed me (“For the Love of Loehmann’s,” “Finding One’s Place in a World Without Loehmann’s,” Jan. 17). How can we, in our troubled world and difficult economy, obsess over a retail store closing to the extent that we “want to lie on the floor and cry” and refer to a final shopping spree as a “shopping shiva?”

These descriptions are an insult to anyone who has lost a loved one. The closing of Loehmann’s is a loss for Baltimore, but it is by no means a tragedy. Unlike human beings, stores are replaceable.

I remember the closures of Gimbels and Korvettes in the 1980s and Caldor in the 1990s. I was upset when these stores closed, but I certainly didn’t lie on the floor and cry!

Let’s get real here. Instead of lamenting that we can’t shop at Loehmann’s anymore, let’s mourn for the store’s owners and employees who now have to find other jobs. What a blessing it would be if this world’s biggest problem was a shortage of stores.

I’m sorry for those who loved Loehmann’s. I wish you all the best of success in finding your bargains elsewhere. But please, put it in its proper perspective, and get a life!

Hannah Heller
Baltimore

Baltimore’s ‘Little Jerusalem’

I read with interest your obituary for Alice E. Krupsaw (Community, Jan. 10) who passed away at age 106. As stated, she documented memories of growing up in “Little Israel” on Eagle Street. As I lived near Eagle Street on Fulton Avenue, this close-knit Jewish community in Southwest Baltimore, with Wilkens Avenue running through it, was better known as “Little Jerusalem,” not “Little Israel.”

Irvin J. Lustman
Baltimore

An Inseparable Part of Judaism

Maayan Jaffe cites discouraging figures from the recent Pew Research Center survey [on American Jews] to show there is a “stark disconnect” between the youngest generation of U.S. Jews and the Jewish state (“Somewhere In The Middle,” Jan. 3). How ironic, considering that her lengthy article is filled with the anti-Zionist views of people such as Tali Ruskin, Jacob Bogage and J Street speaker Akiva Eldar, who seem to believe that Israel is largely to blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict and for the lack of peace.

The proliferation of these misguided views is precisely what is turning off many young American Jews to the Jewish State of Israel, which was founded on the principles of Zionism. Many of these young, naive individuals apparently have an appalling lack
of knowledge and understanding of what Zionism is all about and of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They fail to grasp that the “Jewish/ Zionist narrative” has always been grounded in hard facts and historical truths, whereas the so-called “Palestinian narrative” is primarily based on falsehood, deception and denial of historical truths. They fail to appreciate that Zionism is the epitome of social justice — a civil rights movement for the Jewish people that also affirms the fundamental civil rights of others.

Misguided antipathy toward Zionism bespeaks an urgent need for better Jewish education to foster an appreciation for Zionism as a fundamental and inseparable part of Judaism and Jewish values.

The vaccine we Jews need to inoculate ourselves against the virus of lies propagated by our avowed enemies and their fellow travelers is a better understanding of our own collective history and our own legitimate aspirations as a people rather than succumb to the lies as many young and naive Jews seem to be doing today in increasing numbers.

Marc L. Caroff
President, Louis D. Brandeis Chapte
Zionist Organization of America
Silver Spring, Md.

A Balanced Look at Conflict

The JT and writer Maayan Jaffe are to be lauded for an excellent, balanced article on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (“Somewhere in the Middle,” Jan. 3). The examples used to support engagement with this issue reveal the challenges that present-day conditions and different historical narratives play in designing a future peace and two-state arrangement that can be agreed upon by all parties.

I was particularly moved by Tali Ruskin’s courage, honesty and inner struggle to better connect her service to the Palestinian community with her own Jewish identity. This commendable mitzvah on her part serves as a fine example for others in order to improve the communication and understanding among Palestinians, Israelis and Jews around the world.

After returning last January from a three-week visit to Israel after a 38-year absence, I became very involved with the discussions about the ongoing peace initiatives and re-evaluated my own views on this matter. I found helpful, as noted in the article, my attendance at the Jewish-Muslim Interfaith Dialogue sessions hosted by Beth Shalom Congregation in Howard County and organized with sensitivity by Rabbi Susan Grossman.

I also attended the excellent 10-session program “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land” funded by the Hoffberger Foundation and hosted by Chizuk Amuno’s Melton Adult Education Program. My concern is that these excellent programs reached relatively few people —mostly in older age groups and with little media coverage — to share the wisdom offered. We need to use social media and communication access more effectively to share these messages of hope and understanding.

We need to reflect constantly upon the value of Israel to our Jewish community, increase our sensitivity to Palestinian aspirations and find meaningful involvement that can offer support to a nurturing, fair and secure Israeli/Palestinian two-state future.

Alan Rubinstein
Cantor Emeritus,
Bolton Street Synagogue
Baltimore

Mikvah Not Possible Without Architect

I am glad that you mentioned when the original mikvah was built at Beth El Congregation, acknowledging the work of Rabbi Mark Loeb and those who contributed the money for building the original facility (“Magic Water,” Dec. 20).

I would like to add that the mikvah would not have been there were it not for an architect to design it. I want to give credit to my father, Benjamin Brotman, who not only designed the original mikvah, but also designed other parts of Beth El.

No redesign or building can get started without someone designing it.

Dena Brotman
Montgomery Village, Md.

Kol Hakavod!

As Orthodox rabbis in both the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas, we were happy to read Nathan Lewin’s op-ed calling to attention the work of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld at the Ohev Sholom Congregation (“A Real-life Solution To The Agunah Problem,” Jan. 3).

We applaud the work of Rabbi Herzfeld and support this and other important measures to address the agunah challenge to our communities.

Kol Hakavod, Rabbi Herzfeld.

Rabbi Nissan Antine
Beth Sholom Congregation
Potomac, Md.

Rabbi Aaron Frank
High School Principal,
Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School
Board Member, Congregation Netivot Shalom
Baltimore

Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz
Beth Tfiloh Congregation
Baltimore

Rabbi Etan Mintz
Bnai Israel Congregation
Baltimore

Rabbi Chai Posner                                                                                                          
Beth Tfiloh Congregation
Baltimore

Rabbi Uri Topolosky                                                                                                              
Beth Joshua Congregation
Aspen Hill, Md.

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg
Beth Tfiloh Congregation
Baltimore

UMBC Needs To Take A Stand

While it is heartening that the presidents of the University of Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County declared their opposition to the American Studies Association boycott of Israel, much more is required from our public universities than issuing press statements (“Boycott Earns American Studies Association an ‘F,’” Dec. 27).

As the only educational institution in Maryland that belongs to the ASA, UMBC should take firm
action against the boycott of Israel by immediately withdrawing its ASA membership. In so doing, UMBC will join Indiana University, Penn State Harrisburg, Brandeis University and Kenyon College, which have all withdrawn their memberships in the aftermath of the boycott vote. More importantly, UMBC will be acting in accordance with its mission statement, which proudly proclaims UMBC’s commitment to social responsibility.

In addition, the leadership of UMBC and of every publicly financed institution that forms the University System of Maryland should take appropriate measures to ensure that as long as the academic boycott of Israel remains in place, not one penny of university funds is used to finance any ASA activities, such as faculty membership in the ASA or faculty travel to ASA events.

Since the ASA announced its boycott, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association has voted to do the same, and boycotting Israel is on the agenda of the Modern Language Association’s upcoming annual meeting. To prevent this virus from spreading further, leaders of the University System of Maryland must exhibit moral courage by cutting all ties with the ASA and with any other academic group that boycotts Israel.
Jay Bernstein
Shalom USA Radio
Baltimore

No Prejudice At Veterans Cemetery

By way of response to the letter of David. L. Fisher (“Shocked,” Dec. 20) concerning the burial of Jews in a “segregated location” at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery: In my capacity as the commander of the Department of Maryland, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., I can assure him that Jewish veterans can be buried with all other veterans in the main area of the cemetery. It is strictly the decision of the veteran or the veteran’s family to opt for burial in the separate consecrated Jewish section of the cemetery.
Col. Erwin A. Burtnick,
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Baltimore