A Plaque of Honor

The wonderful obituary/tribute “Roy Hoffberger: Philanthropist, Art Patron, Proud Jew” (Aug. 12) recounts that he  always kept a plaque on his desk that read: “Further discussion is unnecessary. I have said all I want to hear.” The irony  reminded him daily of the importance of listening to others and to the wishes of the community as a whole.

Perhaps the Hoffberger family, as a final act of chesed to honor their deceased patriarch, might consider dispatching said plaque to individual(s) in the public eye sorely in need of such principled civic guidance.

I suggest, for starters:  GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, a wholly self-serving mogul who is Hoffberger’s philanthropic antithesis. “Mr. Bluster” could learn much from Hoffberger’s sagacity and opalescent example.

Their Color? Jewish

The JT’s “Jews Conflicted by Black Lives Matter Platform” (Aug. 12) comments on the challenges Jews of color face because of the anti-Israel agenda of the Black Live Matter movement. I don’t see a conflict. Whether Jews of color are born Jewish or have become Jewish by choice, they are Jews and their color is Jewish. The BLM movement is clearly not about racial equality, and the name is meant to mislead sweet and caring people, who think well of others, to win their  support and donations. The Yiddish expression for the name BLM is chazer feesil.

A Celebration of B’nai Yisrael

Today, we read Parshat Va’etchanan. We see the beautiful words of the Shema that tells all of B’nai Yisrael that there is only one God. Earlier, when God commanded Moses to talk to the rock so it would give water again, Moses got angry. Instead of talking to the rock, he hit the rock with his staff. Then God punished him by forbidding Moses from ever entering the land of Canaan. This is like when a child does not follow directions and gets punished.

Moses does not want B’nai Yisrael to lose their traditions or their Jewish identity by being merged with another religious group. God does not want them to be  absorbed into another  religion.

 

Now, since Moses was  allowed to win a victory in Transjordan, B’nai Yisrael would have the bank of the Jordan River. Moses pleaded with God to let him cross into the Promised Land, but God said he could not cross because of his sin at the rock, and he could only see the land from  a mountaintop. Moses then warns the Israelite people not to engage in idol worship and reminds them about when they received the Ten Commandments. This reminds me of an older brother explaining to a younger brother what he should not do so that he can avoid punishment and instead do what is right.

Moses also sets Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan as refuge cities for those who commit unintentional homicide. This is like a parent earmarking a separate safe place for their child — to sit on the steps or stand in the corner for punishment — when they have done something  unintentionally wrong.

Moses also tells B’nai Yisrael not to spare the people currently living in Canaan. They are not to intermarry with them because the Israelites are God’s treasured people. They will be loved by God if they keep the covenant and the commandments. Moses does not want B’nai Yisrael to lose their traditions or their Jewish identity by being merged with another religious group. God does not want them to be  absorbed into another religion. God wants B’nai Yisrael to be unique.

Garrett Rifkind is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

My Summer of Social Justice, Judaism

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the  Religious Action Center of  Reform Judaism’s Machon  Kaplan summer study-internship program as part of a group of 30 college students from around the country. We came to Washington, D.C., in hopes of discovering more about social justice from a  political and Jewish perspective and were looking forward to living, learning and interning together.

I interned at Jewish Women International, a leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls in a variety of ways — through economic literacy, community training, healthy relationships, education and women’s leadership. Its programs, advocacy and philanthropic initiatives protect the fundamental rights of all girls and women to live in safe homes, thrive in healthy relationships and realize the full potential of their personal strength.

As a program intern, I helped coordinate the Summer Series, a three-part breakfast  series featuring speakers who addressed issues that young women face. I also contributed to rewriting Safe Smart Dating, JWI’s premier sexual violence education program for college students. I delivered letters to congressional offices in support of domestic violence and gun violence prevention bills. I also attended congressional hearings about children and family well-being.

When we weren’t at our  internship, we took a specifically designed academic course at the RAC that taught me how to apply Jewish values to current social justice issues. I had not realized how much our history as Jews and the texts of our tradition call us on to take  action, to make the world a better place. Our history as strangers in Egypt teaches us the importance of creating welcoming communities, where all people are treated equally.

As a more informed Jewish social action advocate, I now know that I have the responsibility to educate others. I plan to take the opinions I have formed and perspectives I have gained as a member of the  Machon Kaplan community and share them with people at all points of the political spectrum. I have made it my goal to have more politically driven conversations with my peers, and I believe that these will help me not only feel even stronger about my opinions, but also consider other points of view. I am so happy I chose to participate in the RAC’s Machon Kaplan program and intern at JWI. To learn more about this program, visit rac.org/mk.

Amy Singer is a Lutherville, Md., native and a rising junior studying psychology and religion at the University of Virginia.

Addressing Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus

Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger

Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger

Anti-Israel movements have existed since the founding of the Jewish state, but over the past 10 years, Israel supporters have had to confront a more sophisticated anti-Israel movement than previously seen. In 2005, 170 Palestinian organizations came together for the boycott,  divestment and sanctions movement, one that sponsors the  economic, cultural and academic isolation of Israel, calling for an end to the democratic homeland.

The BDS movement and the groups that align with it have unfortunately found their stronghold on our college campuses and in our social justice movements. As we send our teens off to college this fall, we know it  is essential to understand the challenges they might face.

Fortunately, our local universities have not experienced the level of anti-Israel rhetoric found at a number of colleges nationwide. But many of our college-age students will attend schools that have encountered challenging situations in the past. And unfortunately, many of them are woefully unprepared for the anti-Israel biases they might face.

Many times, students are surprised to hear anti-Israel remarks made by professors they once admired. Others don’t know how to respond when their friends demonize Israel after joining organizations hostile to the Jewish state or when groups they support pass resolutions that are anti-Israel. And some Jews admit they just don’t feel safe — especially after being harassed by other students.

Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization, is there to support college students. And, to ensure our local colleges and universities do not become a hotbed for anti-Israel rhetoric, The Associated funds Israel Campus Fellows, post-army young educators from Israel who provide a personal connection to the country. They build relationships, create  educational programming that showcases Israel and provide students with knowledge and tools to address anti-Israel sentiments from professors or peers.

We are committed to making every effort to prepare students before they set foot on campus with programs such as The  Associated’s Macks Center for Jewish Education-created Israel High, an after-school program in public and private high schools. Funded by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education, the session empowers students to understand topics such as media bias.

We’ve also begun hosting  programs for parents of college-age students so they can be prepared to talk to their kids about what they might encounter.

Anti-Israel movements are counterproductive to the goal of peace for the State of Israel. We must continue to educate ourselves and our children in order to make the case for  Israel and continue to stand  up to those who oppose her existence.

Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger are co-chairs of Israel and Overseas at  The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Time for New Memories

Editorial Director

Editorial Director

To this day, one of the most popular stories published by the Baltimore Jewish Times is an article I greenlighted not soon after my arrival at the magazine almost three years ago. It concerned the closing of a women’s clothing retailer, and I didn’t think it would gain much traction.

How wrong I was. As it turned out, Loehmann’s had been such a fixture of Jewish women’s lives in our community (and throughout the East Coast) that thousands of people viewed the story online. It even engendered a conversation on our letters to the editor page that went on for weeks.

My skeptical self should have known better. A Facebook friend earlier this week posted a picture of a shopping mall that I frequented as a child, more specifically of its quintessential clock tower. His caption asked if anyone knew where the picture was taken. Those of us of a certain generation — the mall was torn down more than a decade ago to make room for luxury housing — with any familiarity with that part of Dallas instantly had the answer to that question.

They say that the sense of smell is intimately connected to memory, but as it turns out, so is commerce.

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, generations of patrons of the old Owings Mills Mall are now enjoying their own memories of the once-vibrant retail hub. By the time you read this, parts of the building will be gone, and soon its footprint will give way to redevelopment as an open-air shopping center.

Will the future “mall rats” be anything like the friends of Marci Rubin, a 30-year-old Reisterstown native who first got her ears pierced as a screaming little girl at the mall? Will the new stores include boutiques like the cosmetics shop of  Owings Mills resident Marlene Kurland, who would go on to expand her business into three other malls before closing her doors?

Whatever the future holds for the tract of land off of Owings Mills Boulevard, most can agree that anything will be better than what the mall had become in the years since the Great Recession gutted its tenant base.

“It makes me sad that the mall is being torn down, but it seems like it was shutting down slowly for years,” says Rubin. “I would come home from college and want to pop into the mall for both shopping and nostalgia, and my  favorite stores slowly started to vacate, and it made me sad.”

Still, though she won’t be watching the video of the mall’s demolition, she is excited about the reinvention of where she spent so much of her childhood. Like her, we eagerly anticipate the new additions to our neighborhood. It’s time for new generations of shoppers to make their own memories here.

jrunyan@midatlanticmedia.com

Dems: Losing Jewish Vote?

In the excellent JT article “Convention Had Little to Say About Jewish Issues, Republicans Take Note” (Aug. 5), very important points were made.

My grandparents’ generation ardently supported the Democratic Party, but it would not recognize it today. The Democrats have abandoned the white working poor and middle class. They have shifted their voter base to the black, Hispanic and immigrant communities. They have embraced Black Lives Matter, which some consider racist, and their opposition to the war on police is uneven. They inflame racial tensions.

Our economy is in ruins with everything going overseas and people losing jobs, but the Democrats claim our economy is sound. Our enemies grow stronger, and our allies do not trust us. We are attacked by radical Islamic terrorists, which they say do not exist. They want open borders and rapid citizenship, despite crimes committed by illegal immigrants and competition with citizens for entry-level jobs.

Prior to the Democratic National Convention, a proposal to add the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to the Democratic National Platform was narrowly rejected.

In the past, the Democrats could count on Jewish votes, but maybe not this November.

JCC’s Belly Flop

Speaking for many members of the JCC in Owings Mills, we watch daily how the downstairs pool, splash pad, playground and two gyms cannot be used while camp is in session (JCC Members Upset Over Pool Hours,” July 15). The board decided that the members could not use these parts of the JCC in Owings Mills this year because of the influx of many camps now that Milldale is closed.

If someone even tries to go downstairs, they are yelled at and told to leave. My children attended the JCC camps for years, and always the members were allowed to swim and use the facilities with them. There was never a “safety” issue, as members are now being told.

This is so upsetting because the members were told about the amended hours only two weeks before Memorial Day after many new members had already joined. Because it has been made clear that the members are not important to the JCC, it comes down to the almighty dollar and the money the camps are bringing into the J.

With all these changes, the members are still expected to pay full price, even though we can’t use all of the facilities. At the very least, the fee should be pro-rated. I have heard many members say that they will not renew. Such a shame for the facility and the community.

What Exactly Do We Mourn?

101014_riskin_sholmo_rabbiThe bleakest fast of the Hebrew calendar is on the ninth of Av, Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem (in 586 BCE, and 70 CE). We begin preparing ourselves to feel the enormity of the loss three weeks before, from the 17th of Tammuz, with a sunrise-to-sunset fast on the date the Roman armies breached the wall around Jerusalem. Then, from the 17th of Tamuz until Tisha B’Av, Jewish law ordains a moratorium on all group festivities, with no haircuts, no shaving (although some may continue to shave until the  beginning of Av) or listening to music.

A world  without  compassionate righteousness and just  morality is a world that  cannot endure.

 

What is it about the loss of the Temple that engenders such national mourning? I would submit that the Holy Temple was inextricably intertwined with our national  mission: to be God’s witnesses, and thereby serve as a light unto the nations, bringing  humanity to the God of justice, morality and peace. Our prophets saw the Temple as the living example from which all nations could learn how to perfect society. With the loss of the Temple, we ceased to be “players” on the world stage; we lost the means by which our message was to be promulgated. And a world without compassionate righteousness and just morality is a world that cannot endure.

When Jacob leaves his ancestral home, fleeing Esau’s wrath, and dreams his dream at Beth El, he envisions a ladder rooted in the earth and reaching up to the heavens — a veritable Holy Temple. Jacob identifies the ladder as “the house of God, at the gates of the heavens,” and Rashi, citing the Talmudic sages, insists that the ladder extended to the Temple Mount.

In the Book of Exodus, at the Song of the Sea, the Israelites sing of being brought to and planted within the Temple Mount, when the Temple of the Lord will be prepared by divine hands, and the Lord will reign throughout the world. And when King Solomon dedicates the Temple in Jerusalem, he beseeches G-d to answer the prayers of the gentiles who shall come from far away “for Your name’s sake,” so that “all the nations of the earth may recognize Your name, as does Your nation Israel” (I Kings 8:41-43).

The second chapter of Isaiah pictures the Temple exalted above the mountains, inspiring the nations to “beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks.” Indeed, we yearn for our Temple, which will inspire the world to accept a G-d of love, morality, compassion and peace.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is chief rabbi of Efrat.

For Better or Worse

Editorial Director

Editorial Director

Zoning disputes are never easy, frequently pitting the interests of developers against residents, homeowners against environmentalists and municipalities against business owners. As you’ve read in past issues of the JT, they can even pit religious factions against each other, neighbors against neighbors.

This week, we examine two surrounding important pieces of real estate in our community. The first concerns an attempt to rezone part of the land belonging to the Woodholme Country Club to accommodate a dense residential development that could negatively impact the nearby North Oaks retirement community and the Ner Israel Rabbinical College. All the interested parties are important to the Jewish community, from North Oaks, where many of our family members, neighbors and fellow synagogue attendees go to retire, to Ner Israel, which trains many of the Orthodox world’s future leaders, to Woodholme, a historically Jewish country club.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important Woodholme Country Club is to the Baltimore Jewish Community,” says David Nevins, a PR professional who is representing the country club. “[Woodholme] is a predominately Jewish club whose members give many, many millions of dollars a year to [The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore] and to other charities and so forth.”

Of course, that truth in and of itself has nothing to do with whether or not the redevelopment is good for the community or good for Baltimore County, an issue that is being decided by the powers that be. But it helps us remember that in this dispute, while the winners will be active members of the Jewish community, so will the losers.

The other zoning fight takes place several miles to the east, concerning land once owned by Willard Hackerman, the late developer and philanthropist. While he had locked 111 acres near Beth Tfiloh in a preservation trust, 25 adjoining acres, known as Hidden Waters, are now facing a rezoning determination to accommodate a new neighborhood.

When it comes to zoning,  it’s difficult for sides to at least acknowledge opposing points of view. In a world of imperfect plans and unintended consequences — both positive and negative — the presence or  absence of development will help some and hurt others.

That’s why it’s so incredibly important for those of us who are not parties to the dispute to keep an open mind and let the process play out in the county’s hearing rooms and, if necessary, in the courts. At the end of the day, we’re still part of one community.

A year from now, or five, 10 or 20, we just might find that the undeveloped parcel next door has remained a blessing for families with children at play or those just enjoying the view. We also might discover that the new neighborhood down the road has provided new friends for our children to play with and new members to reinvigorate our synagogue. Once the zoning decisions are reached, only time will tell.

jrunyan@midatlanticmedia.com