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.

What Is A Miracle?

Today is Chanukah. The holiday we know today first took place around 200 B.C.E. in Judea or what is known today as Israel.

Antiochus III, Greek king of Syria, took over Judea and was fair to the Jews, allowing them to follow their traditions and their beliefs. But when his son, Antiochus IV, took over, the rules of his father ceased. Antiochus IV made the Jews pray to the Greek gods, and he had his army desecrate the Temple, the center of Jewish life in Judea. The Jews, led by Mattathias and his five sons, started a rebellion that turned into a war. Although the Jews were outnumbered, they won by knowing the land and using guerrilla tactics.

After the defeat of the Greeks, the Jews rededicated the Temple. The menorah was a fixture in the Temple that kept track of the days, like a calendar. The menorah ran on oil, and the oil was stored by days. However, while at war, the Jews did not have enough time to collect oil. So despite having only enough for one day, they lit the menorah, and it burned for eight days! It was a miracle.

Chanukah is about miracles. I believe miracles happen all the time.

What is a miracle? According to Webster’s dictionary, a miracle is “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.”

Or “an event considered as a work of God.”

I think from these definitions that a miracle is a supernatural event created by God. On Chanukah, as well as Purim and Yom Ha’atzmaut, we read the “Al Hanisim” prayer during the Amidah and the grace after meals. This prayer is read on these holidays because it is thanking God for helping us triumph during difficult times. The paragraph read on Chanukah is about God giving strength and power to the Maccabees to defeat the powerful Greeks.

There is a difference between the miracle of the oil and the miracle of the war. They are both miracles, but one is not obvious because it has to do with people and war tactics, but we still thank God for helping. The other was supernatural with obvious help from the Almighty. One miracle is not more important than the other; they are both just in different areas. We thank God for both.

Miracles happen all the time. They have happened in the past, and they happen today. In Indiana, a young boy fell into a sinkhole of sand, was buried there for eight hours and survived. That’s a miracle. It is a miracle that so many babies are born without physical problems.

Miracles are important to me because they can’t be explained. They are wonders of the world. Miracles always leave me thinking, “Why did this occur now and here?” There is no answer. That is the glory. We appreciate the Almighty for what Hashem has done, and we thank God.

Eli Wilcox is a student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

A Questionable Agreement


President Barack Obama announces an interim agreement on Iranian nuclear power that was reached in negotiations between Iran and six world powers.

The deal reached Sunday between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) does not remove Iran’s nuclear threat. But it does relieve some of the economic sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. As such, the agreement may pave the way for a nuclear-armed Iran with the so-called “interim agreement” being nothing more than a speed bump along the way.

The agreement requires Iran to limit its nuclear enrichment, freeze most of its centrifuges for six months and halt construction on its plutonium reactor. In exchange, the U.S.-led coalition will roll back some of the sanctions on Iran, which will provide about $7 billion in relief.

Some Jewish groups have welcomed the agreement, with supporters asserting that Iran has now committeditself to serious restrictions.  And they say that Iran’s agreement to allow certain daily monitoring by international nuclear inspectors reflects Tehran’s willingness to open the window wider on its nuclear program.

What the agreement doesn’t do is shut down and dismantle Iran’s nuclear program, which was the stated objective of the international sanctions effort.  It doesn’t remove the highly enriched uranium that Iran already possesses — enough to make six to eight bombs, according to reports. And although Iran has agreed to dilute its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium (considered two steps short of weapons grade) to 5 percent, such a move is reversible. Meanwhile, under the agreement, Iran can continue to produce more 5 percent enriched uranium, thus adding to its stockpile.

Essentially, Iran has achieved its clear goal of relief from the crushing economic impact of international sanctions without committing to anything permanent in exchange.  And while President Obama has argued that sanctions are like a spigot, whose pressure can be increased as well as decreased, the real- life applicability of the metaphor is questionable. It took years of hard work and persistence from players such as Israel to attract attention to the Iranian nuclear threat and to turn the situation into an issue of international concern. If things don’t work as hoped toward the further development of a meaningful agreement with Iran on the issues, there is no telling whether there will be enough political will to resume or increase sanctions once they have been abated. What is certain, however, is that there will be a loss of momentum and a significant diminution of political and economic pressure going into any effort to reach a final deal, which the parties have committed to achieve in six months.

Momentum is crucial here. For example, what will happen if Iran cheats? Or what happens if Iran refuses to sign a final agreement? Answers to these questions certainly need to be spelled out. Israel is preparing itself based on the very real possibility that Sunday’s flawed agreement will become permanent. And there were reports this week that Israeli intelligence believes that Iran will be able to produce a nuclear bomb within three months of deciding to do so.

Before the announcement of the interim agreement, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators committed to intensify sanctions on Iran after Thanksgiving. There’s no reason for them to change their plans.  As we have noted in the past, the sanctions were put in place and were escalated in order to force Iran to give up its nuclear program and to dismantle its developing nuclear capabilities. That remains the goal and needs to remain the focus. We continue to believe that continuing sanctions and the real threat of further sanctions are the best guarantee of staying the course until those goals are reached. JT

See related, “Analysis: A Closer Look At The P5+1-Iranian Agreement.”

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.

Light In The Darkness

110113_Jaffe-MaayanTwenty-four hours in Jewish Baltimore.

The staff at the JT decided last week to take a day — one day — to drive around Jewish Baltimore and meet the Jews of Charm City. I was assigned the 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift, and it’s amazing the light you can find in the darkness.

I can’t give away our whole feature story, which you’ll see in the coming weeks, but I will tell you there is a calm in Jewish Baltimore in the wee hours of the night.

Photographer David Stuck and I took to the streets, charged with a caramel latte and a hot chocolate, circling between Old Court Road and Northern Parkway.

At around 2:30 a.m. we stopped at Seven Mile Market only to meet a frum night manager stocking the shelves with macaroni. He let us in reluctantly but warmed up as soon as we started talking. We got a backroom tour and a lesson in the pallet jack (which picks up the pallets of foodstuffs), and we got to schmooze about flour packaging and how it is the cause for many a mess. Mr. Weiss said he had some ideas for making that better — but that will be for another time.

We met a blood technician at Sinai Hospital and a mother picking up iced coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts, and we talked with Robert Bagwandeen, the baker at Goldberg’s. He gave us a freshly baked bagel — straight off the wooden plank. You have never tasted anything that good.

It was tiring; I was tired. It was cold; my toes are tingling just thinking about it. It was strange; the folks at Weinberg Place would only speak to us through the glass door and turned us away.

But it was awesome.

Great, because when I used to look out of my living-room windows at the midnight streets of Baltimore I was somewhat afraid. I feared a quick run to the car, my eyes always on alert for an attacker I imagined lurking behind the trees. I figured only freaks come out at night.

Not so in Jewish Baltimore. Northwest Citizens Patrol was out protecting us as we prepared for our “mission.” Marilyn Mendelsohn was making sure our citizens stay healthy during her eight-and-a-half-hour shift at the hospital. And just about 4:30 a.m., several men were found shteiging in the Ohr Hamizrach bais medrash and learning a page of Talmud in Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek.

So holy is Jewish Baltimore.

I still can’t say that I would advocate walking the streets of the city at night, but I can say there is light in the darkness. I doubt I will ever have a chance to do this experiment again, but if I do, I want to tag along with Hatzalah and be a part of healing our community. Or maybe I would go with the folks who volunteer for Shomrim so I could see what it really means to keep our community safe.

Friday night is the third night of Chanukah, the festival of lights. May the blessing of light be on you this holiday season, and may the candles bring warmth on an otherwise cold night.

Happy Chanukah!

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief

Beth El Women Attend Ethiopian Women’s Cooking Workshop in Ashkelon

Ethiopian Cooking ClassBy: Nancy Gertner

Note: Nancy Gertner traveled to Israel last month with a group of women from her synagogue, Beth El Congregation. She shares her insight from a day spent in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city.

There is little question that a highlight of any trip to Israel is its large and bountiful breakfast. This can be said for our morning meal at the Royal Beach Hotel on the third day of Beth El Women’s recent journey to Israel. Certainly, no one could have boarded our bus feeling hungry. We had a busy morning with a speaker, picked tomatoes in a hot field and then started for Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city, fairly later than scheduled. Once we arrived at our sister community, we were all impressed with the tour, learning about the Baltimore-Ashkelon relationship and how The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore is involved in this third partnership, which has come to be so meaningful to so many Baltimoreans and Israelis because of the true involvement in helping each other and the meaning of the ten-year-long relationship.

The Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership is based on mutual respect – trust, transparency and honesty – as the two communities strive to collaborate on projects that build long-lasting and meaningful friendships as well as a greater love for Israel and the Jewish people. Every year, at least 1,000 people travel from Baltimore to Ashkelon. The Associated is committed to tikkun olam, repairing the world. In 2013, The Associated allocated $7.1 million from their Annual Campaign not only to help meet the needs of the Jewish communities in Israel and around the world but also to keep our local community connected to Israel.

We arrived after 2:00 p.m. at the Ethiopian Cooking Workshop at the Steven Russel Teen Center, where over 20 Ethiopians greeted us warmly with kisses and excitement. Together, we were to prepare lunch, and, by then, everyone was hungry. First, we cut and chopped vegetables, working with strong spices. Since they used paper towels as potholders, we quickly realized that we own better cooking equipment than the Ethiopian women, so we started taking up a collection for their future meal preparation. Potatoes, carrots and other vegetables were peeled and chopped; soon, the whole room was tearful over the onion chopping. We got lunch and green pea soup going, and together we “broke bread” and tasted all the strange foods that the Ethiopians have brought to Israel as immigrants with their own stoves on their heads.

There is so much to learn from a different culture, but we share Judaism as a way of life. This ancient peoplehood has prayed to travel from Africa to our same promised land for so many years and they have suffered so much during this process. Yet, we can be so proud of Operation Moses and Operation Solomon and of our own Associated federation, which has ensured the absorption of this part of Israel, even without real jobs and Hebrew language.

It was quite a lunch; smells filled the room and, personally, I ate a good bit of Ethiopian bread. The experience was one none of us will forget. As we boarded the bus, there were more hugs and kisses, and the women were obviously thrilled by our visit.

We can be so proud of The Associated and the funding it has provided to make this partnership work, and to preserve the Ethiopian culture in its midst. Money given to The Associated supports all of Baltimore’s local agencies, projects in Israel such as this and needs in every country all over the world where there are Jews.

Through The Associated’s Annual Campaign, the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership is able to support many projects, including educational opportunities to vulnerable populations in Ashkelon, such as the Ethiopian immigrants. Last year, The Associated supported the Ethiopian National Project’s Scholastic Assistance program that aims to increase the number of Ethiopian students who successfully pass their matriculation exams as well as to improve their level of achievement in these exams. The Associated also supported PACT in Ashkelon that aims to close the Ethiopians immigrants’ education gap through a range of programs for children up to age six and their parents. Last but not least, The Associated contributed to ‘Completing the Journey,’ a grant which enabled the federation system to bring the final group of Ethiopian immigrants to their Jewish homeland.

There are plenty of opportunities to connect with and provide needed support in Ashkelon. Contact Stephanie Hague at shague@associated.org or 410-369-9294 to learn more.


Learning From Dreams

The name of this week’s Torah portion is Vayeshev, which is in the Book of Genesis. It is a continuation of the story of Joseph. In Vayeshev, Joseph is now in Egypt. Sadly, at this point in the story, Joseph is in prison, where he encounters two new prisoners. One is Pharaoh’s cup bearer and the other is Pharaoh’s baker. They both have dreams, and they ask Joseph to interpret them.

In the cup bearer’s dream, there were three branches of grapes. The cup bearer squeezed the juice into the cup and gave it to Pharaoh. Joseph told him this meant that in three days he would get his job back. In the baker’s dream, there were three baskets of bread on his head, the top basket was filled with lots of baked goods. Later in the dream, birds came and ate the baked goods from the basket. Joseph told the baker this dream meant that in three days the baker would be killed.

On Pharaoh’s birthday, which happened to be three days later, Pharaoh had a feast. Pharaoh sent for the cup bearer but got rid of the baker.

Before he left, Joseph asked the cup bearer to remember him, but the cup bearer soon forgot him.

I found this part of the parsha most interesting because I thought it was really amazing how Joseph could interpret dreams and how he was right about them all.

I think there are meanings to dreams. I sometimes remember my dreams, but most of the time, I tend to forget them.

But I have other kinds as dreams as well. For example, I have the dream of doing well in school because I want to get good grades in order to go to high school and college. I also dream about playing for a successful team in my sports activities. While the Torah tells us about Joseph who could tell what dreams meant and what would happen in the future, I don’t know what my dreams exactly mean, and I definitely don’t know what will happen in the future.

But dreams are still important because they show what’s in your imagination and in your mind, and they show what you might be able to accomplish in your life. Joseph found a way to learn and share what people’s dreams meant; I hope someday I also will know what my dreams mean, too.

Lauren Murdick is a seventh-grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

Worried For Funerals

I am writing to express my deep concern about the $1.4 billion merger of the largest and second-largest funeral services companies in the U.S., Service Corporation International (SCI) and Stewart Enterprises, Inc. If this merger takes place, some of my constituents in the Washington, D.C. area could see an overwhelming increase in standard funeral costs.

Since 1999, SCI has acquired its second-, fourth-, and fifth-largest rivals, severely reducing competition in several major urban markets. As SCI’s market share has increased, the quality of its service unfortunately has not. Consumer complaints have included deceptive sales practices, unexpected charges and fees, sales of single burial plots to multiple individuals, the burying of loved ones in the wrong plot and even the exhumation and disposal of bodies in oversold cemeteries.

In … 2005 … the FTC noted that the preferences of ethnic and religious minorities limit their choice to facilities providing the customs and rituals appropriate to their specific needs. Aside from African-Americans and Chinese-Americans, the consent decree named Jewish Americans as a community likely to see adverse effects from a loss of competition. Such adverse effects are precisely what my constituents fear they will suffer if SCI is permitted to acquire Stewart.

In the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area, Stewart owns the Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, the only low-cost funeral home that performs certain sacred Jewish rituals. Under a contract with the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, Hines-Rinaldi currently provides traditional Jewish funerals at a price that is almost $4,000 less than the next lowest-priced (SCI-owned) funeral home. Hines-Rinaldi also respects the traditional Jewish 30-day mourning period by waiting 30 days to bill bereaved families — a service that no other home in the area currently provides. These affordable and culturally appropriate services will almost certainly vanish if Hines-Rinaldi comes under SCI control. Moreover, if SCI acquires Hines-Rinaldi, it will control the four funeral homes that conduct over 70 percent of Jewish funerals in the D.C.-metro area.

The proposed SCI-Stewart merger affects an industry in which consumers must make financial decisions during times of profound emotional distress. Anti-competitive effects will take the greatest toll on low-income populations and on smaller ethnic and religious groups whose choice is already limited. I ask that the FTC carefully consider the detrimental effects that Jewish families in the Washington, D.C. area currently anticipate.
Brian E. Frosh

Nice Work!

My family was the subject of a recent article in the Baltimore Jewish Times (“Seriously?” Oct. 10). Amy Landsman did a story about hosting a vegan bar mitzvah. I wanted to let the JT know that we think she did a great job both in researching and telling our story. I’ve been interviewed before by other reporters, and they always seem to get something wrong. Amy got it all right and told it in an interesting and balanced way.
Bonnie Sorak